Friday, May 29, 2009

Amy Stewart is Wicked hot!


Mostly because the room was wickedly hot, and standing-room only. In a bakery. While they were baking. It was held in the bakery next door to the host, Urban Roots, our community garden center cooperative.

One of Amy's slides from a trip to a poison garden that had gotten permission to grow cannabis. Behind bars and under lock & key.

There were 35 to 45 people there to listen to Amy Stewart, of Garden Rant and Dirt, by Amy Stewart, tell stories about plants from her new book, Wicked Plants. Stories with pain, asphyxiation, vomiting, paralysis, rashes and sun-induced blisters that usually ended up with a death (or two). She delights in tales of caster bean plants, planted in pretty public squares, that result in total organ failure and body-wracking pain. Or hallucinogenic peace lilies, planted in public library gardens frequented by children.

Much of what she covered was in her book. Though, she was able to show her Powerpoint presentation which had photos from some of the poison gardens around the world she's visited and had some great anecdotes about those visits. The gist of her talk though, other than horror stories, was making people aware that plants that are not food–can be dangerous. Folks like to protect their young 'uns from electrical outlets–there are 3,900 people injured annually by electrical outlets–but 68,847 annually poisoned by plants! And the deadliest plant of all time? Tobacco, with a death toll of more than 90 million.

Amy's little chest - of deadly plant seeds and their antidotes, picked up in an antiques store. She delights in getting it through airport security. Other than opening it up and checking it out, she's not been stopped–despite clearly labeled jars of totally toxic seeds & plant extracts.

She wrapped up with answering a few questions. As with many events like this, some people don't ask questions as much as they make comments so they can hear themselves talk–not really intending to solicit a response from the speaker. In the movie, The Incredibles, it was called monologuing.

Elizabeth from Gardening While Intoxicated/Garden Rant introduced her, noting that Amy's less a garden writer, in her estimation, than an investigative reporter/storyteller that writes about the plant world. Never truer words spoken. If she's coming anywhere near you, you should take the time to catch her act.

7 comments:

  1. crazy stats! i think this is amazing information and goes to show the power that plants have for both good and evil...

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  2. I enjoyed watching the video on your earlier post. Very interesting subject matter.

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  3. Many people do not know much at all about plants.
    Because I am part owner of a seed company I work with seeds like lupin, castor bean, larkspur etc.
    It is a good idea to get a basic idea of common poisonous plants that you will find in your area.
    www.lifeseedco.blogspot.com

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  4. B&g girl,
    There's crazier info in her book. Rather than a technical book of poisonous plants it's a nightmare collection of stories about plant villains and their unsuspecting victims.

    Grace,
    A funny little horror film, wasn't it?

    L&J,
    Thanks for the link. Amy did bring up that incident in Las Vegas a couple years ago with the guy that got sick from having ricin (castor bean seeds, basically) in his hotel room and she showed photos of officers in hazmat uniforms dealing with the poison. Essentially they're a plant and seeds that are readily available and growing in a good amount of public & private gardens. Knowledge is power.

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  5. Very interesting! I saw a display for staff in a hospital where I used to work that told about castor beans, and how some teens were chewing them to induce hallucinations. I'd never heard of that before...good thing some of the knuckleheads I went to high school with never heard of it!

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  6. How did I miss your garden blog... this is wonderful. I enjoy your thoughts and ideas. Amy is pretty awesome! I follow her on Facebook.
    STop by my garden in the Midwest sometime.

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  7. lisa,
    Hallucinations, yes. Nausea, vomiting and respiratory problems too. The kids don't hear that part.

    Bren,
    And where have you been all my life too? Thank you very much. Even my wife doesn't like my thoughts and ideas! I've stopped over to visit you, but will be back to read past posts.

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