March 28, 2023

How To Read Poisonous Plant Cards

In the upper right corner of each sheet there is an ideogram indicating the degree of toxicity, of which 4 levels have been distinguished on the basis of a careful evaluation of the symptoms that could arise following exposure.

deadly plantDeadly . The plant is not edible and its use can be particularly harmful, causing death in the most serious cases.

 

harmful plantHarmful . The plant is not edible and the accidental and/or voluntary ingestion of fruits, leaves, flowers, roots can give rise to symptoms, often affecting the gastrointestinal system, even particularly serious ones.


dangerous plantDangerous
 . The plant is in fact edible and is commonly used for food purposes, but parts of it, sap, latex and/or its improper use can make exposure risky.

 

edible plantEdible . The plant is edible and therefore its consumption is not to be considered harmful to the body.

 

Title and introduction of the card

We have chosen to adopt for this entry the common Italian name of the plant treated, drawn from what is already in use (Pignatti, 1982; Banfi & Galasso, 2010), in order to facilitate the casual reader or the layman an approach which we could define as psycho-semantic, as an opening to the topic. The scientific name is indicated under the Italian name on the basis of what has been said in the previous paragraphs; in some cases the file refers to a community of species that are similar and equivalent on a toxicological level, rather than just one of these, for which a generic spp is indicated instead of the epithet. (=species plurals) or even the section (group of related species within the genus) involved. The nomenclature follows the checklist of the Italian vascular flora (ferns and higher plants) (Conti et al., 2005, 2007) and subsequent updates. 

We add that alongside the official binomial one or more synonyms (not to be used) can be reported in brackets when these are particularly known because they are still used in outdated texts. In this regard -the reader should not be frightened- the synonym can be preceded by a sign = or ≡ depending on whether the synonymy is, respectively, heterotypic (taxonomic ) or homotypic ( nomenclatural). 

Let us explain: given that the species is always the same, the first case arises when originally it was baptized several times with two or more different epithets based on distinct specimens, i.e. there are names and types (the type is usually a herbarium specimen conventionally designated as carrying an epithet) different for the same species; in the second case, on the other hand, on the same type, i.e. on the single epithet, combinations that are not valid according to the ICBN or, if valid, different from the one established as official are based. After the scientific name, the family to which the species belongs is indicated in brackets. 

We recall, historically, that the idea of ​​bringing together related genres into families did not come to Linnaeus,monophyla ) in the family tree of plant genera. As far as the circumscription and nomenclature of families are concerned, in this booklet the authors have followed the recent contribution of Reveal (2011), who, through the official phylogenetic data of APW ( Angiosperm Phylogeny Website : 41 Stevens, 2001 onwards), provides, in the opinion of the writer, the most satisfactory current model of classification of families, capable of representing the diversity (ie the result of evolution) of plants at a sustainable and sensible level of detail. 

The various Italian common names of the species treated in the file, reported in case of multiple denominations, are more or less in use in the current national language (examples: yew or death tree, black elder or common elder, tamari or cherry or tamina grape or black vine or viticella, etc .). They too can contribute with a sort of orientation link when it is necessary to go back to the identity of the species. The poisonous species, as has been said, in many cases have one or more harmless edible counterparts at the basis of the confusion that causes the episodes of intoxication. For this reason it was deemed necessary to immediately and clearly indicate, between the heading of the file and the description of the species, which are the edible subjects that can be exchanged with the dangerous species (and vice versa), subjects which are then treated in special cards.

Morphology

This entry describes the treated species quite briefly, with the presentation of the most evident vegetative ( habitus, stems, leaves, etc. ) and reproductive ( flowers, fruits, seeds ) characters. In some cases (for example collective species such as Gentiana sect. Gentiana), once the general aspects common to the group have been developed, the description moves on to the differential characters of one or more of the species involved, to allow a detailed recognition. Here, more than in other entries in the file, the technical terms used in plant morphology appear, for which, where deemed necessary, a special glossary can be consulted in Appendix 2.

Flowering

The monthly flowering interval of the species is indicated. The period of the year during which a plant flowers ( phenanthesis ) is written in its genetic heritage, so there are different species which flower at different times without overlapping and different species whose blooms are more or less largely overlapping. However, things are a little more complicated, because important external factors influence the plant, the most important of which is the temperature. It then happens that the populations of a species distributed from sea level up to the montane belt enter flowering in successive moments according to a wave of altitudinal progression: in fact, at higher altitudes the climatic spring ( not astronomical) is delayed with respect to the lower altitudes and this evidently affects the biological rhythms.

 The same argument, at constant altitude, is repeated for the latitude, that is for the populations of a species distributed along lines oriented from south to north in our hemisphere and vice versa in the southern hemisphere. The genetic code of each species largely includes this possibility of delay and we want to clarify that the data reported here refers to the real phenanthetic period of the species, that is, the one which takes into account its altitudinal and latitudinal distribution in Italy; it also takes into account certain anomalies (or asymmetries) of the orographic factors capable of influencing the blooms. The climate of the Alps is structured in overlapping altitudinal bands, which tend to lower in altitude proceeding from the Maritimes to the Julian Alps. Here, in fact, it can be observed that, at a fixed altitude, the populations of a species distributed over the entire Alpine arc suffer a delay in flowering going from west to east

. All of this is due to the so-called mass effect, which in the western Alps (more massive, in fact) shifts all the climatic bands upwards, as if in that area an entire block of the earth’s surface were rising upwards. sky, while in the Eastern Alps (of lower mass) it causes the opposite effect. Finally, we recall that in Italy there are incalculable local situations, i.e. microclimates, generated by the morphological and topographical complexity, by the articulation and distribution of water masses ( the populations of a species distributed throughout the Alpine arc suffer a delay in flowering going from west to east. 

All of this is due to the so-called mass effect, which in the western Alps (more massive, in fact) shifts all the climatic bands upwards, as if in that area an entire block of the earth’s surface were rising upwards. sky, while in the Eastern Alps (of lower mass) it causes the opposite effect. Finally, we recall that in Italy there are incalculable local situations, i.e. microclimates, generated by the morphological and topographical complexity, by the articulation and distribution of water masses ( the populations of a species distributed throughout the Alpine arc suffer a delay in flowering going from west to east.

 All of this is due to the so-called mass effect, which in the western Alps (more massive, in fact) shifts all the climatic bands upwards, as if in that area an entire block of the earth’s surface were rising upwards. sky, while in the Eastern Alps (of lower mass) it causes the opposite effect. Finally, we recall that in Italy there are incalculable local situations, i.e. microclimates, generated by the morphological and topographical complexity, by the articulation and distribution of water masses ( as if in that area an entire block of the earth’s surface 42 rose towards the sky, while in the Eastern Alps (of lower mass) it causes the opposite effect.

 Finally, we recall that in Italy there are incalculable local situations, i.e. microclimates, generated by the morphological and topographical complexity, by the articulation and distribution of water masses ( as if in that area an entire block of the earth’s surface 42 rose towards the sky, while in the Eastern Alps (of lower mass) it causes the opposite effect. Finally, we recall that in Italy there are incalculable local situations, i.e. microclimates, generated by the morphological and topographical complexity, by the articulation and distribution of water masses (seas, lakes, waterways) compared to the surveys and the rate of industrialization, urbanization and asphalting of the different areas of the territory. 

These microclimates can anticipate or delay the flowering of any species. Habitat and distribution There is often confusion between the ecology, habitat and distribution of a species. Starting from ecology, we will specify that the term summarizes the complexity of abiotic (light, climate, soil) and biotic (biostrategies, competition, pollination, dispersion, predation, symbiosis, etc.) environmental factors, which maneuver the life stage of each species. It is an abstract concept, based on the individual species (autoecology), but which can also be extended to communities of species as a whole, that is to say to vegetation (synecology). 

This aspect is not covered in this article, because extraneous to the purposes of the booklet, even if it is necessary to clarify it, because the confusion on the subject still reigns supreme. The habitat, on the other hand, which interests us closely, identifies the physiognomic and structural typology of the growth environment of the species, which can be easily recognized through a combination of a few descriptive elements, such as: humid woods, heaths, peat bogs , arid pastures, meadows, fields, uncultivated land, snow valleys, gorges, banks, gullies, riverbeds, calcareous scree, cliffs and walls, silica scrub, garrigue, coastal sands, cliffs, etc. This data provides a concrete vision of where the plant grows, an element of primary importance also in the reconstruction of intoxication events and in information aimed at preventing “do-it-yourself” carelessness. As far as geographical distribution is concerned, it should be remembered that each species occupies a certain portion of space on the planet as a result of the natural expansion of its populations (primary range); this is often superimposed by one or more successive expansions caused by man (secondary range). A primary range reflects the natural history of the species, while a secondary range takes into account how much the species has been and is in fact able to leave its homeland by conquering land, under the direct or indirect stimulus of Homo sapiens ( this is often superimposed by one or more successive expansions caused by man (secondary range). 

A primary range reflects the natural history of the species, while a secondary range takes into account how much the species has been and is in fact able to leave its homeland by conquering land, under the direct or indirect stimulus of Homo sapiens ( this is often superimposed by one or more successive expansions caused by man (secondary range). A primary range reflects the natural history of the species, while a secondary range takes into account how much the species has been and is in fact able to leave its homeland by conquering land, under the direct or indirect stimulus of Homo sapiens (Galasso et al., 2008; Celesti-Grapow et al., 2010). Culta are excluded from these considerations (Hetterscheid & Brandenburg, 1995), i.e. plants existing only in cultivation (for example maize) which, precisely as a consequence of their domestication, are no longer capable of reproducing and spreading autonomously, least of all in nature. We still have to consider an ethically important point: the rarity/vulnerability of species in nature. 

There are rare species due to the fact that they have a very small and circumscribed range (local endemics), which go more or less unnoticed by non-experts, because they live mostly perched on unreachable rocky walls and are not threatened by aggression environmental. Other species, on the other hand (unfortunately many), are rare as a result of the fragmentation of their range, a general and widespread phenomenon, in constant progression since the middle of the last century, involving the destruction of habitats. The most sensitive have proved to be those of the humid habitats at medium-low altitudes, particularly in the plains, where entities of ancient medicinal use such as Acorus calamus L. (Acoraceae), Persicaria amphibia (L .) Delarbre (Polygonaceae), Symphytum officinale L. (Boraginaceae) and Teucrium scordium L. (Lamiaceae) or for food as Cirsium oleraceum (L.) Scop. (Asteraceae), Helosciadium nodofl orum (L.) WDJKoch (Apiaceae) 43 and Apium graveolens L. (wild celery, Apiaceae). In such precarious conditions are also found the poisonous aquatic buttercups with white flowers (Ranunculus L. sect. Batrachium DC.), treated here in a special file. 

Thus, the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis L.), a plant with a circumboreal distribution passing through central-northern Italy, has become highly rarefied precisely in our territory. Another example among the poisonous species reported in this text is the nightshade (Atropa bella-donna L.), distributed on the mountains of the Mediterranean Region (including the southern slopes of the Alps), which prefers clearings and the edges of beech woods. Due to urban expansion in the mountain belt of our surveys, many populations of the species have been erased and the belladonna, once relatively common, is now considered a rare entity.

 Among the wild food species the same problem reappears, also because here is added the damage of the collection, often excessive and uncontrolled, 772 “List of plants declared medicinal†and any more restrictive regional laws; for food plants and protected species in general: numerous regional laws, for example, among the most “evolved†, the regional law of Lombardy 31 March 2008, n. 10 “Provisions for the protection and conservation of small fauna, flora and spontaneous vegetation†). 772 “List of plants declared medicinal†and any more restrictive regional laws; for food plants and protected species in general: numerous regional laws, for example, among the most “evolved†, the regional law of Lombardy 31 March 2008, n. 10 “Provisions for the protection and conservation of small fauna, flora and spontaneous vegetation†).

Toxicological aspects

The toxicological properties of the species are described , with reference to the secondary metabolites ( alkaloids, glycosides, oxalates, etc.) responsible for the various responses of the human body and, where known, also of other animal species. From a clinical point of view, the symptoms of poisoning, their evolution, the existence or otherwise of specific antidotes and the appropriate therapy are reported. When considered useful, the toxicological data of other species are compared with those of the species in question, especially if there are concrete possibilities of encountering the former as well. In the case of non-toxic (edible) species, indications can also be provided on the behavior to adopt in relation to the consumable quantity and the methods of use and preparation, because often plants that are currently consumed without damage (such as parsley, basil and laurel), can become toxic, sometimes seriously,

Note

In this entry there are observations of various kinds relating to the species treated, which can embrace the historical, anecdotal, philological, gastronomic, ethnobotanical, curiosities and other fields, but also clarifications and regulatory or scientific details of a systematic, taxonomic, biogeographic and ecological nature .