Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Few Poisonous Plants
By Peggy Lee
From Lethal Lily
Book 7 in the Peggy Lee Garden Mysteries

When I was a child, I lived on a farm outside Charleston, South Carolina. My father used to take me into the fields with him and he told me stories about plants. I’m sure many of the stories were made up. He told me rutabagas were the food of the Greek god Athena (he knew I admired her) and that a water lily grew for every poor soul that drowned.

He was my first contact with poisonous plants. He showed me what sumac looked like and told me to avoid poison oak. He explained to me that tomato and potato plants were deadly poisonous and from the same family, nightshade. It was once called bella donna, meaning pretty woman, because it was used as eye drops to enlarge the pupil in a woman’s eyes to make her more attractive.

Poison Oak

I knew the story of hemlock and how Socrates drank the poison because he was accused of heresy. And how the Borgias used a little arsenic to improve the taste of their wine, especially when they had company over for dinner.


I think it was knowing how powerful plants could be that caused me to study them and become a botanist. I always saw them as living things that could cause pain, suffering, and death – or could be used to cure the most terrible diseases.

I never thought I would be working as a contract forensic botanist, helping the police one day. Especially not now when most people my age are finishing their career and heading for rocking chairs. But I like my work and my garden shop, The Potting Shed. Each day bring something new with people and plants.

Someday, I plant to retire and lead a crusade to have something printed on all plant labels about whether or not the plant is poisonous to humans or pets. It would give me some peace of mind to know that gardeners could tell the difference before they plant.

Wouldn’t that be great?

Read an excerpt from Peggy's new adventure, LETHAL LILY, here:

Win a copy of Lethal Lily by leaving your name and the name of a poison plant not already mentioned in this blog in the comment section!


  1. Poison Ivy.

  2. Poinsettias
    Becky Prazak

  3. Interesting post, Peggy. I'm particularly cautious about plants that may be toxic to my rescue animals, as you suggested.
    --Lauren Vancouver, of the Pet Rescue Mysteries

  4. How about the Orleandar ---ronnalord ( at) msn ( dot ) com

  5. Rhubarb
    I think the plant labels sound like an excellent idea.

  6. Lily of the valley bobbipad at gmail.com

  7. Foxglove

  8. Oleander will kill you. It's very toxic apparently. For animals too I think.


  9. Karen B is my winner! Thanks to everyone for stopping by!