Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Tobacco-tree tremens

Tobacco treeSpeaking of the silvery yellow-flowered so-called tobacco tree: I have always had a funny feeling about that plant. Not the one that grows dark green leaves that are cured and smoked to disastrous effect. The one I'm thinking of grows around here wherever it gets a chance: all over Elysian Park, in my back yard, in my front yard (for a short while). I see them growing, and I think weed and other unflattering things; I pull it up.

My instinct got its affirmation recently in an email from a reader, Amy Wakeland.

Amy wrote:

I thought I would pop you a note to correct what I think might be some unintended misinformation in one of your recent posts. You write: "It's only a tobacco-tree plant (Nicotiana glauca), of course. Not to be confused with actual tobacco plant whose leaves can be harvested and turned into sickness and early death. No, this one (see photo) is harmless in every way except for, perhaps, as a pest."
Tree tobacco is actually highly toxic, and, if consumed, can lead to a slowing of the pulse, stumbling, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and even death (by respiratory failure). Children especially should be kept away from the plants; pets should be shooed away from them if they are nibbling on them; and people should use gloves when removing tree tobacco plants from their yards.

How unpleasant. Yes, that plant makes me uneasy. Thank you, Amy!

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