Plants that Bite and Sting

It is estimated that there are around 375,000 species of plants on our planet, of which 297,366 have been identified and named. There are about 260,000 flowering plants, (they have flowers and reproduce by pollination and seeds), and 15,000 bryophytes (they reproduce by spore production – liverworts, hornworts, and mosses).

Without plants life as we know it would not exist. This is because, through the process of photosynthesis, plants have the remarkable ability to combine carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), using photons of energy from the sun, to form glucose. Glucose is how plants store energy. Animals consume the plants, extract and digest the stored sugars, carbohydrates, and starches, and use the stored energy to survive. These simple sugars, glucose and fructose, are the fuel that the engine of life utilizes to sustain and maintain itself.


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Poisonous Pearls of Wisdom

The mention of poisons and accidental poisoning is both a little disconcerting and at the same time fascinating. We have all enjoyed a good thriller whose main character had to unravel what happened to the deceased only to find out that some sort of exotic, odorless, and tasteless toxin had been slipped into their holiday eggnog. The science of toxicology and the recognition and management of potential poisoning victims is complex and inexhaustible. At home in our local emergency departments, we have the luxury of poison control centers with their extensive toxin databases. In the wilderness, in distant lands, or on the high seas, we do not have easy access to this wealth of information, so we have to be prepared to deal with a potential accidental poisoning victim. Even though it is less of a problem in the extended care setting, there is still a risk of accidental poisoning, especially from foods.

July/August 2006    ISSN-1059-6518    Volume 19 Number 4

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