Books for Nature Lovers
Mind-altering and Poisonous Plants of the World
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Review By: Choice - 17 Julie 2009

Stunningly exhilarating, this marvelous work by Wink (Univ. of Heidelberg, Germany) and van Wyk (Univ, of Johannesburg, South Africa) contains a wealth of clearly and beautifully presented information. 

A fascinating 29-page overview introduces botanical toxicity and intoxiction. Part 1 (204 pages) contains 202 monographs alphabetically arranged from Abrus precatorius through Amanita muscaria, Amanita phalloides, Claviceps purpurea, Inocybe fastigiata, Letharia vulpina,and Psilocybe mexicana to Xanthium strumarium. The intervening species noted include five fungi and one lichen in contrast to the titular "plants". Nonflowering plants (three pteridophytes and four gumnosperms) are also included. Each monograph has two excellent photos, beginning with Latin and main common names, continuing with ten detailed sections (species with similar properties; characters; occurrence; toxic classification; active ingredients; use; toxicity; symptoms; pharmacological effects; first aid), and ending with Latin name and nomenclatural authority, major synonymy, family, and French/German/Italian/Spanish common names. 

Part 2 (98 pages) discusses toxins including their modes of action and secondary metabolites with and without nitrogen. The 82-page "Quick Guide to Poisonous Plants, Mind-Altering Plants and Fungi" gives key information for another 1000 species. An intriguing (and inexpensive) book to browse, both for usual suspects (cannabis) and unsuspected ones (grape). Glossary (without illustrations); three-page bibliography; comprehensive index. 

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