CCW’s September monthly meeting invited other SinC chapters to join us, and we welcomed Sisters and Misters from GA, NC, NJ, NY, OH, and VA on Zoom. Our chapter president, Charlotte Hunter, introduced our formidable guest speaker, Luci Zahray, a pharmacist with a Masters in Toxicology from Texas A&M University, dubbed “The Poison Lady”. Standing next to her famed poison cabinet, down-to-earth Luci presented on using poisonous plants in our mysteries and crime thrillers.
She warned that natural or organic goods should not automatically be equated with healthy or safe products. Luci noted that poisonous plants, such as bella donna, hemlock, datura weed, and plants with the word “bane” or “killing” in them (i.e. wolfsbane, henbane), can be lethal, cause dangerous hallucinations, or lead to serious illness and painful reactions. Luci advised that the potency of poisonous plants depends on a number of variables, including where the plant was grown, weather and soil conditions, the amount of the plant used, and the size and health of the intended victim. She added that the use of mixed poisonous plants may also increase their lethality.
Luci also indicated that poisonous plants are often difficult to recognize visually and can be harder to trace. Deadly plants might be inserted seamlessly into your plot line since they can be disguised in salads, drinks, or other foods. For example, Luci noted the visual similarities between ground poisonous plants and dried seeds with Italian seasoning or red peppers. She further discussed the use of poisonous plants in lotions, causing harm through topical application.
Luci provided additional background on the use of poisonous plants in ancient and modern history as well as in Biblical stories, myths, and dramatic plays. So when you’re dreaming up your next deadly plot line consider how you might weave poisonous plants into your dastardly story. Thanks again to Luci for another informative talk.