Posted by: gardenshf | March 5, 2012

Amy Stewart at The Gardens: Great Fun While Learning

How is it possible to have great fun while learning? The answer is easy – attend an Amy Stewart talk about poisonous plants. Yes, poisonous plants! Amy kept a large crowd at The Gardens Speaker Series entertained and informed about, of all things, the vast array of plants throughout the world that can do horrific harm to animals and humans. Amy’s wry take on the dangers around us, quite often because of our own ignorance, was at the very least eye-opening, and there was plenty of laughter despite the cringe-worthy subject matter.

The audience was riveted by stories of Amy traveling the globe seeking out plants that imperil, maim and kill. Often she didn’t have to go far, finding toxic Datura plants filling the parking strip of a friend’s home in New Mexico. Amy had to work diligently to convince her friends, the parents of young children, that these plants should never be in the proximity of youngsters. Many people tend to think of plants as benign, quite lovely decorations in our lives, such as the city beautification officials who decided to plant the beautiful but highly poisonous Castor Bean plant in window boxes along the streets of Chicago. The poisonous plant garden in Great Britain, hair-raising stories of carnivorous plants, the sad tale of Abraham Lincoln’s mother’s death from milk sickness, carried in the milk of cows that munched on the deadly White Snakeroot, the list goes on and on. Amy ended the talk by regaling the audience about being photographed in a southern tobacco field only to end up with elevated blood pressure and heart palpitations by simply nestling herself among the leaves for a good shot!

It was another successful night for the Speaker Series, with a wonderful turnout of old and new friends of The Gardens, fine wine and delicious treats, and a chance to learn something new.

Clare Cooper Marcus, our final speaker of the series, will be with us on March 22. We hope to see you there.


–Susan Handjian


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