Ok, I’ll admit it, I did in fact finish the Foxglove Fairy some time ago, but I’ve not yet had time to get her on the scanner, sorry! Meanwhile, another poison flower fairy is in order, since I have an exhibition coming up soon – Ilminster in August – and not much painting time left…
All the Laburnums are out in flower at the moment and looking lovely, but I have been reading up on them and it would appear their dreadfull reputation is quite overstated, and perhaps I would only add to the paranoia. It would be a shame to contribute to people getting rid of them. Mind you, round here they are all over the place!
And then I googled ragwort, to see what its leaves are like as I suspect that is what the big healthy plant coming up in the chickens patch is. Now there’s a plant full of controversy as it appears several species of insects rely entirely on it. Horses, it appears, will avoid it, but get fooled if it is dried and in hay, as does other livestock, hence the problem. Chickens should avoid it, but then again, they should avoid the foxgloves, too, but they stick their stretchy little necks through the fence and eat those when they can get hold of them. So ragwort has been on agriculture’s hate list for a long long time, but it’s not something that tends to injure people.
So, in my confusion I picked another plant entirely: the ubiquitous Urtica Dioica, the Stinging Nettle. You may not think of it as a ‘poisonous’ plant, and of course you can eat it, and make tea from it (I’ve never tried these but I saw it described as having ‘a pleasant bland taste’, which frankly is not about to persuade me to go out and boil up a saucepan full) however, it is literally covered in tiny hypodermic ‘syringes’ full of poison – this is what makes the sting, of course.
Like the foxglove, it is actually doing the Stinging Nettle a great injustice to label it a ‘poison plant’ at least without pointing out some of its benefits. The website of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens says “the nettle is one of the most useful plants in Britain and even its sting can be beneficial.” http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Urtica-dioica.htm. You can make paper out of them, textiles, plant food, they are excellent in the compost heap, and there is some evidence that the sting can be used to treat arthritis, and you can eat them of course, though mind you only eat the young nettles, the old ones have insoluble gritty bits in that are really bad for the kidneys, apparently… The list is almost endless.
But lets face it, Urticia Dioica is also a bit of a thug.
Actually I am a bit of a fan of nettles. I gather them up gleefully (with gloves and long sleeves) and heap them into the compost and the veg beds. I have been known to climb the fence and steal next-door’s weeds, which are mostly nettles. I have to admit that next door are quite happy for me to steal their weeds, there is a veritable plantation of nettles out there, but they can more-or-less only be got to by actually climbing the fence and descending into the sea of undergrowth, so it feels like doing something naughty 😉
So, these are my nettle fairies – a whole gang of them because, of course, where there is one nettle there are always lots more!