Book Review: 8/2/2019 Plants That Poison : An Illustrated Guide to Plants Poisonous to Man by Ervin M. Schmutz 241 pages paperback.
Plants That Poison by Ervin M. Schmutz is a paperback book published in 1979, but was reprinted in 1986. I bought my copy at the REI Store in Berkeley which was the flagship location. I thought at the time the book was overpriced, but the information in the book is accurate and easy to understand. This is a good book if you are just starting out in botany, because although it has a few deadly plants, most the plants are everyday plants that no would ever think of eating like a juniper bush on page 103. These plants will make you feel sick, but not kill you. The plants are listed by common names which is great if you just starting out and don’t want to get confused by the Latin names. The funniest entry is for marijuana on page 125. It says Cannabis is poisonous and causes death by reduction of the heart beat if you eat enough of it and that just is not true. I assume the author Ervin M. Schmutz just made up what he imaged would happen upon consuming a lot of marijuana . He had apparently confused Cannabis with Opium type plants which can reduce the heart beat. On page 37, the candelabra cactus is featured along with the cashew nut. The cashew is dangerous to eat until the nuts capsules and opened by a heating process. Raw cashews nuts are often sold for snacks How can they be raw if they are heated? Raw means not roasted or salted. Page 71 has information on how to grow Rye Grain to created ergot fungus. The fungus is very sensitive to sunlight. Once the Rye is growing and fall on the ground if the winter is cold, dark and wet ergot could grow on the Rye, but even you success in growing the fungus, it will not be LSD until it is distilled in a very complicated process (which I do not understand), but directions can be easily found online, but it is illegal to make it. The Ergot is not a plant, but has its own separate page entry in the book because Rye is not poisonous, but ergot can cause great sickness and death. The original creator of LSD was a chemist who touched the LSD he made by accident, and then took a bicycle ride on April 16th, 1943. This day is known and celebrated as Bicycle Day.
There is confusion on the date of Bicycle Day because Tom Robbins changed the date to August 19, based on the day of the week being not a weekend, and not good for a party. But April 16 is the correct date which should or could be celebrated as LSD Day every year. LSD had a great impact on American Culture bring new colors and new points of view to the consciously of everyday people. The Beatles were at the forefront of the so called consciousness expanding movement. As the Beatles created music based on LSD such as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds teenagers began to discover LDS. The process was a trickle down from the more wealthy and or famous creating art and music and this brought awareness of LSD to the general public. Now LSD (being illegal) is very hard to find, and more mild psychedelic drugs have come into favor such as mushrooms. John Lennon claimed to have taken hundreds of LSD trips.
The illustrations by Lucretia B. Hamilton the botanical type, but are without color and photos would have been a better choice, but it was a cheaper to not include any photographs at the time. This book is a good jumping off point to using the internet to learn more about each plant, and for casual poolside reading. I read bits of it from time to time as a refresher.
The cover and pages held up remarkable well, and do not look yellow and the book (in spite of being old) is not dust filled. I am allergic to dust and I normally never read old for that reason. This book could be scanned then then made part of the Kindle or E book system. It’s a good sort of general reference book for a beginner and will not confuse the reader with terms like botanical terms Pinnation.
This book was published in 1979 making it one of the books from the 70s, but is now out of print.
There is another book by the same author and illustrator which I don’t own, but it focuses just on plant from the South West USA. Plants That Poison: An Illustrated Guide for the American Southwest Paperback.
Plants That Poison : An Illustrated Guide to Plants Poisonous to Man by Ervin M. Schmutz 241 pages on Amazon