Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Toxic Top Ten Malcolm Rose 8 and 7

Plants don’t want to be eaten, so some protect themselves with poison. The Duchess of Northumberland keeps a garden of poisonous plants in Alnwick and offers guided tours. Good research for any crime writer or murderer. The next two toxins in my contaminated countdown are both from plants.

8. Foxglove. Got some pretty foxgloves in your garden? Oh dear. They contain digoxin and eating a few leaves will cause headache, nausea, delirium, visual disturbances, slow pulse and death in about half an hour.

7. The suicide tree. The Cerbera tree grows across India and south-east Asia and it contains cerberin, a toxin similar to the foxglove’s digoxin. More people commit suicide with this tree than with any other plant. Some of those deaths are actually murders in which the culprit disguises the bitter taste of the crushed kernels by mixing with spicy foods. In the West, toxicologists are familiar with digoxin but they wouldn’t recognize a murder by cerberin. Mmm. Got me thinking.


  1. Great idea occurred to me as I was being "toured" round the Duchess's poison garden when it first opened.

    Suppose after the last tour of the day was over and the gate locked for the night, a dead body is found inside the garden next morning?

    Food for thought. You'd have to visit to work out the possibilities for how it got there. Bungee jumping might do it but you'd need something more believable than that.

    Alnwick, and its garden history in particular, offers a load of possibilities as to why anyone might want someone dead... Pity I'm working on a different YA novel at the moment!

  2. The Duchess did it! It was a great publicity stunt for her poisoned garden.