Safety first – poisonous plants to watch when making anthotypes

An excerpt from Anthotypes – Explore the darkroom in your garden and make photographs using plants. Poisonous plants that should be avoided when making anthotypes.

Writer / Malin Fabbri

Anthotypes by Malin Fabbri including a section on poisonous plantsTake precaution!
Safety first! Beware of poisonous plants

The anthotype is safe for the environment, but, do not assume it is safe for you. Just because plants grow naturally in your surroundings does not mean they are harmless.

Always use gloves when making emulsion, to protect yourself, and if nothing else, to protect your skin from staining. And remember, just because some plants are used for medicinal purposes does not mean they are safe to eat.

Take extra care when involving children in your project. Many household, cultivated and wild plants are quite poisonous, at least when consumed. Azaleas (Rhododendron pentanthera) can cause nausea, vomiting and even coma, and daffodils (Amaryllidaceae narcissus) can give you an upset stomach and blurred vision, not to mention foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which have fatal leaves, seeds, and flowers, causing cardiac problems.

Furthermore, the seeds of apple (Malus domestica) and cherry (Prunus cerasus) are mildly poisonous but fall under the category of poisonous plants. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere and can cause blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions – yes, that is a long list of stuff you don’t want to get.
Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) can be fatal and poisoning by autumn crocus or meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale) has been compared to arsenic poisoning with everything from fever to kidney failure.

skull_crossboneMany know that hemlock or poison hemlock is a poisonous plant (Conium maculatum) should be avoided – it can paralyse the central nervous system – and giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is also a well known poisonous plant, causing severe skin inflammations with blisters and burns. Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), and pokeweed (Phytolacca) should also be avoided.Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), bleeding heart and hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) are capable of causing damage to the nervous system and even death.

These are just a few examples. Before you begin, make sure you do your research and read up on the plant you are intending to use. There are thousands of harmless options – choose a safe plant to work with and avoid dangerous plants.

If you or anyone else has ingested a harmful plant, call your emergency and ask for first aid. If possible, take the plant with you if you are taken to the hospital. If you develop an acute rash, do the same.

Malin Fabbri has written three books on alternative photographic processes. In 1999 she began, and continues to be it’s editor.

Learn more in the Anthotype book
Anthotypes – Explore the darkroom in your garden and make photographs using plants

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