Monkshood -The Flower With a Deadly Side

My neighbors gardening mishap nearly cost him his life and it taught me never to take a plant for granted. It happened on a crisp clear April day in a cool but sunny Iowa backyard. Spring growth was just beginning to emerge and like most gardeners the call of spring was just to strong to resist. My neighbor and long time friend headed into his backyard gloves on and ready to start weeding his flowerbeds hoping to spot some early new growth and confirm that winter was finally over.

His girlfriend was in the house making a pot of coffee while he was happily pulling odd growth and newly sprouted weeds away from his precious plants. She brought him out a cup of hot coffee and together they enjoyed the spring weather and discussed the new plants they wanted to add to their garden this spring. He slowly sipped on is coffee and took off his gloves to enjoy a cigarette while he watched his little terrier, Czar, racing around the backyard looking for a stray bunny to chase.

His girlfriend had errands to run and went about her day as he went back to weeding his plants. The day progressed and he felt like he was coming down with a sore throat. It kept getting steadily worse and his girlfriend had still not returned. He was starting to have difficulty breathing and began to worry that he was having a reaction to his medications. He headed over to his neighbors house and after one look at his throat she had him in her car and on his way to the local hospital.

The doctor on call thought he was having an allergic reaction to an insect bite and gave him a series of shots and put him on an IV. Three hours later he was still not better and the doctor became intensely worried as his throat looked like it was swelling shut. He asked him what he had been doing that day and the story soon came out. My neighbor had been weeding his flowerbeds around some highly toxic (poisonous) plants and had forgotten to put his gloves back on. He had touched the spent oily leaves of a plant called monkshood and had then smoked a cigarette ingesting the oils with the smoke and his mouth and throat had reacted to the poison. Monkshood is used as an ingredient in some heart medications. It has a beautiful bloom but in the wrong hands can be deadly and my neighbor was a very serious and experienced gardener but a casual mistake could have cost him his life. After watching the drama of his experience with a plant he had grown for years I fully understand the value of a pair of gardening gloves. Never take a plant for granted!