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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Saturday - September 12, 2009

From: Wewoka, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Is conium maculatum safe for cataracts from Wewoka OK
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My doctor has prescribed conium maculatum for my cataract problems. Is this safe to use in the eyes?

ANSWER:

We are gardeners, not doctors, but we can tell you about the plant you are asking about. Conium maculatum is native to Africa, Asia and Europe and was imported into North America as an ornamental in the 1800's. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care, propagation and protection of plants native to North America and to the area in which it is being grown. Although that places the plant out of our range of expertise, this USDA Plant Profile shows it is growing, non-native,  in nearly every state in the United States and nearly every province in Canada.

But the main thing you need to know is that every part of this plant, especially the fresh leaves and fruit, contains a volatile, oily alkaloid, which is so poisonous that a few drops prove fatal to a small animal.

We urge you to visit a medical doctor, an ophthalmologist, and seek his opinion on any treatment of cataracts. Please do not touch, gather or use any portion of this plant. The common name of Comium maculatum is Poison Hemlock, and it is the poison that killed Socrates.

 

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