Friday, 16 May 2008

The Duality of Nature

Many creative and visionary people have attempted to express the rapture of Nature - William Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge in poetry, Samuel Palmer in painting, Richard Jefferies in prose, Vaughn Williams, and Herbert Howells in music (to name just a few of my favourites). Others, like myself just observe in quiet wonderment as spring unfolds to birdsong and the lengthening of the day.

However, duality is inherent in all things, including Nature. Life is one side of decay, light cannot exist without dark, night gives way to day. So it is in the hidden world of plant life. Nettles are 'beaten back' or cut down even though, in spite of their sting they have numerous beneficial qualities as a herb.

Wild flowers on the other hand, can be deadly. On a beautiful warm May day earlier in this week I spotted this seemingly inoffensive bright yellow plant shining in the sunlight - it turned out to be ragwort which I later discovered causes slow and painful death to horses if they eat it. There are in fact many, many plants that are poisonous to horses, other animals and even humans. Here are a few examples:- bracken, black bryony, buttercup, cowbane, foxglove, laburnum, yew, heliotrope, rhododendron, to name just a few. Some of the brightest flowers are also the most poisonous; though plants like ragwort also have curative properties and it has been used in the past by herbalists for healing wounds and as a mouth wash for sore throats. Plus it is sometimes used to produce a yellow dye.

Thank you to SteveM for the information about the toxic effects of ragwort if eaten by horses and also advising that under the 1959 Weed Act, which classifies ragwort as injurious, local authorities and highway agencies have an obligation to remove this plant before it 'seeds'.