Winter is long gone here in Southern Ontario (although last week we did have snow, followed by +29C weather)! One folklore name for this herb is “wolfbane” referring to the use of lacing meat with bits of its tuber in order to rid the countryside of those fearsome beasts. As though this practical application was not enough, legend also tells us it has mystical powers to repel werewolves if carried in one’s purse. Better still! The bearer could wrap a tuber in lizard skin and not be seen at all!
However this plant is not a deadly “wolfbane” or aconite – but a common case of mistake identity.
Ah well, the innocent properties of this herb are so often confused with aconite or “wolfbane”. As always, you can put its use as a medicine however poisonous it may be (nota bene: if you ever visit Royal Botanical Gardens Canada you can tour our deadly plant/medicinal garden to learn more). Unlike it’s deadly “cousin”, the whole of this plant is poisonous to the extent of a mild stomach upset if eaten. The sap may also cause skin allergy for some. I haven’t found any reliable sources for medicinal uses, but considering the reaction of this Ranunculaceae I shall tag it as a laxative causing dyspepsia and diarrhea (sitting on the toilet for two whole days).
But, then as now, the folklore lives on and people who had to walk home after dark would have a bunch in their pocket to protect them from evil spirits. One wonders, however, why this herb is mistaken for such a deadly plant?
Clearly, it is because botanists and gardeners are gentle people, without malice, but like to screw around with your mind.
Bonus points for Latin name or proper common name!