Sunday, May 6, 2007

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia picta)

*Disclaimer: Writer of this post is unsure as to the species of Dieffenbachia photographed below. If a reader has information verifying the species, corrections will be appreciated.

Though a popular houseplant, ours grows well in the garden, and are quite abundant too. It's been in our garden for as long as I can remember.

The Dieffenbachia genus is notorious for its poison; slaves in the olden days were made to chew on its leaves, and its sap was also used for arrow poison. The entire plant is poisonous, so you must take extreme care in handling one. Even a small amount of sap, if in contact with the tongue, can cause extreme swelling, burning pain, and paralysis of the tongue and throat, causing loss of speech for days. Hence the name "Dumb Cane".

Chewing the leaf, or ingesting large amounts of the sap can lead to severe swelling of the throat, so bad that one will no longer be able to breathe. If drops of sap enter the eye, the eyelids can be stuck closed for several days!

Now now, don't get any ideas about dipping a foul-mouthed or lying frenemy's toothbrush into the sap!


Bea said...

Hey do you know what? When I was a kid I took a similar plant and tore the leaves and stalk up and rubbed it all over myself!

I got really itchy all over. I have no idea why I did that... Haha.

Diane said...

blame it on the calcium oxalate crystals. (say what??) hahaha. i think i should take up botany.