dumbcane (was: Moles and other Geophyte predators)

piaba piabinha@yahoo.com
Tue, 03 Jan 2006 10:00:34 PST
> The name "narcissus" descends from the Greek word
> narkissos meaning (broadly) 
> sleep-inducing.  Narcissus bulbs contain an oxalate,
> the crystals of which 
> are needle shaped (raphides).  When ingested, these
> crystals are released and 
> lodge in the mucous membranes lining the mouth and
> esophagus causing the tissue 
> to swell.  Diffenbachia sp. also contain this
> compound.  "Dumb cane" is a 
> colloquial term used for this plant.  It has to do
> with an inability to speak and 
> not, necessarily, to the relative smarts of the
> person ingesting the plant!!  
> When chewed on by the unsuspecting (most frequently
> children under five 
> years), swelling of the mucous membranes is so great
> as to prevent speech (hence, 
> "dumb").  In the worst case, swelling could close
> off the airway causing death.

dave, i believe the origin of the term dumbcane was
not that children or anyone else would unwittingly
chew on this plant, but that it was used as a
punishment for escaped slaves in the caribbean (to
have the cut stems rubbed inside their mouths and thus
they would not be able to speak for several days).

tsuh yang

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