By LYNNE IRONS
Two years ago this month, one of my young women workers got a reaction to a plant which sent her to the emergency room. She was told it was the worst chemical burn they had seen and was sent home with prescription burn cream and her arms wrapped from shoulder to wrist in bandages.
We got on the Google-machine and found that certain plants, called apiaceous, contain toxic chemicals. These furanocoumarins are absorbed by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light and cause painful blistering or photo-dermatitis.
By the way, I am plagiarizing my self from my August 17, 2007 column because it bears repeating.
Apiaceous, according to Webster, is belonging to the plant group umbelliferae, which means producing umbrellas, as in the flat flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace, parsnips, carrots or dill.
Furanocoumarins comes from furan, meaning a colorless, oily liquid. This liquid causes painful blistering only under certain conditions, especially in full sunlight.
We remembered that our coworker Seniel had been planting next to the evergreen rue on a very hot, humid day. I tested myself several times with rubbing the plant on myself in the heat of the day, but never was affected with a rash of any sort.
Rue, not to be confused with my hometown Rew, Pennsylvania, has blue-green leaves and a yellow, berry-like flower. I am fond of it. It fills in a bed of pastels and is equally attractive with reds and oranges. It is hated by deer because of its unpleasant aroma. I like to use it next to things they like, hoping it will deter them slightly. As if!
In my computer research (hate it) I learned rue was very popular in the Middle Ages. People used it to rid their homes of fleas. It was called witchbane. Folks carried it around to ward off witches — apparently, they were common in those days. The expression “rue the day” refers to the practice of throwing rue at an enemy while cursing him. Seems more civilized than unmanned drones!
I have a point, I promise. Last week while tending the same garden for the same Ivy League college alumnae affair on the same type of hot, humid day, the bed with rue needed tending. While being warned, I, the hopeless smarty-pants, rolled up my sleeves and remarked, “Oh, it won’t happen to me.” Well, rue the day. We now know for sure that rue is the culprit. I have burns and blisters on my hands, forearms and knees that would make poison ivy a walk in the park. I have been slathering myself with witch hazel, tea tree oil, and cortisone cream to no avail. I have nothing to say in my defense. I wish I could blame someone. There are aspects of gardening which bring out the best in me. This wasn’t one of them.
I have to agree with the 1992 sign “Hooray for Bill” hanging on State Road in front of the late Craig Kingsbury’s home. If one of my children were prisoner in a foreign country, he’d be the man to go fetch ’em. When Hillary, in Africa, was asked to comment on John Bolton’s statement that Bill negotiated with terrorists, she said, “If Obama walked on water, Bolton would say it’s because he couldn’t swim.”
I have been keeping up with the town hall shenanigans concerning the health care reform bills. I find it remarkable that any American citizen honestly believes that President Obama wants to kill old people. Wouldn’t even the farthest left blue-state liberal take issue? We all have parents and/or grandparents. People, please, you have a brain. Try to use it!