York & North Yorkshire

Deadly plants on display at Harrogate Flower Show

Hemlock (left) and foxglove (right) Image copyright Harrogate Flower Show
Image caption A display of dangerous plants includes hemlock (left) and foxglove (right) at Harrogate Flower Show

Common plants that can cause rashes, stomach upsets, or even death are among those on display at a flower show.

The Handle with Care display is at the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show in North Yorkshire.

It has been designed to help visitors to enjoy the beauty of their garden more safely, the show said.

There were more than 700 hospital admissions in England due to accidents involving plants and fungi in 2014 - 2015, according to organisers.

Image copyright Harrogate Flower Show
Image caption Giant hogweed is very invasive and can grow to about 6ft (2m) high

Nick Smith, the show's director, said: "Some of the UK's most dangerous plants, such as hemlock and giant hogweed, are also among the most invasive, spreading with ease from hedgerows to gardens and wildflower areas if unchecked.

"With the right information, people can identify those plants with the potential to cause harm and handle them accordingly.

"Laburnum seeds are renowned for toxicity and how many people know that deadly ricin comes from the common castor oil plant or that elderberries and elderflowers, are toxic when not ripe?"

Image copyright Harrogate Flower Show
Image caption Winter cherry is particularly dangerous to pets

Six common dangerous plants

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

Renowned for both its hallucinogenic and lethal properties, both the foliage and berries containing toxins such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine. The berries are said to have quite a pleasant, sweet taste and are therefore easy to mistake for edible fruit, such as bilberries, with tragic consequences.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

One of the many foreign plants introduced to Britain in the 19th Century as ornamental plants, it is now widespread, especially along riverbanks. The plant contains furocoumarins, which reduce the skin's protection against the effects of UV radiation. Exposure to sunlight after contact causes severe skin rashes, blistering and burns, but the effects may not start for 24 hours after contact.

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus)

All of the plant is highly toxic and fatal if consumed. Gloves and long sleeves should also be worn when handling Monkshood to avoid skin contact with the sap. Aconite and aconitine are thought to be the key toxins. Ingestion of even a small amount results in severe stomach upset, but it is the effect on the heart, which is often the cause of death.

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)

Five alkaloids are said to be present in hemlock, coniine, conhydrine, pseudoconhydrine, methyl-coniine and ethyl-piperidine. It causes violent vomiting and causes paralysis of the nervous system. Death is usually the result of respiratory failure.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves are a source of digitoxin, a glycoside in the drug digitalis, which has been used as a heart stimulant since 1785. It is also well-known for its toxicity in all parts of the plant. Consuming the leaves can cause oral and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In severe cases, symptoms can include visual disturbances, plus heart and kidney problems.

Winter cherry (Solanum Capsicastrum)

The berries are poisonous, containing solanocapsine, which is similar to the alkaloids found in the nightshade family. Their appealing appearance make the fruits particularly dangerous to young children and pets and, although they are rarely fatal if consumed, it is best to keep the plant well out of reach.

Source: Harrogate Flower Show

Image copyright Harrogate Flower Show
Image caption Deadly nightshade (left) and monkshood (right) are part of the show organised by the North of England Horticultural Society

Profits from the Harrogate Flower Shows are handed back to the North East Horticultural Society to continue promoting horticulture.

The autumn show began in the 1970s as a companion to the regular Spring Flower Show which is held in Harrogate in April.

This year is its 41st show.

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