Remember the fenced off area of meadow in Hyde Park in the last post with the "Warning Plant Movements" sign?
You couldn't see from my rather dark photo what plants were there - but as well as some yellow and white flowers (sorry to be so unscientific but I just can't remember them) there were a few cornflowers and poppies but also CORNCOCKLE!
So what? Well, corncockle is interesting. It used to be a common weed in wheat fields (like poppies, cornflower and those yellow and white flowers), but you hardly ever see it now thanks to selective herbicides.
Back to Richard Mabey's "Weeds. The Story of Outlaw Plants" again.
This is what he has to say:
"Corncockle, a member of the pink family, with exquisite purple flowers... has seeds which ripen at the same time as wheat, are of much the same size and weight as wheat-ears, and which aren't easily separated out by winnowing. They turn flour - and the bread made from it- grey. The noxious glycosides in the plant, known as saponins, enter the bloodstream and cause a breakdown of red blood corpuscles and other cells. The condition (still common in India) is known as githagism, after the plant's Latin name Agrostemma githago and is characterised by lassitude, yawning, loss of weight and enteritis"
So you really wouldn't want to be eating that
By the way, I know it's not exactly local, but the North American prairie garden at the British Museum is great. That's echinacea at the front. That's a medically useful plant, rather than a toxic one.
The info boards are great, telling you which plants were effective against snakebites and so on
The garden is at the front of the British Museum until the 25th of November. And if you like taking photos of flowers with columns behind without the bother of finding a real temple (as I do) it's a must.