THE BLACK ROSE

Rose 'Black Baccara'

If I am being completely honest there is no such thing as a black rose.

However, there are a few cultivated varieties that have taken advantage of the very dark red pigments that roses can produced.

There are a number of different varieties of these so-called black flowering roses - the most popular being  'Black Jade' and 'Black Baccara'.

 How to grow black roses

Black roses should be planted in sandy soil so if you feel that your soil is particularly heavy due to clay then you will need to improve the drainage by adding some horticultural grit or well rotted compost to the soil. To preserve the deep colouration, plant out of direct sunlight to prevent the flowers from bleaching -  partial shade is preferable. Once planted, water in thoroughly.

Rose 'Black Jade'
During hot weather, black roses should be watered at least three times a week - sometimes more for newly planted stock, but avoid water-logging the soil as this will only result in root damage which in extremely cases can result in the death of your roses.

Using a good quality, well-rotted farm manure give your black roses a good thick mulch in the autumn, and once again in the spring. This will help to provide the nutrients needed to maintain healthy growth over the spring and summer.

When to prune black roses

Back in the olden days, the rules behind pruning roses were kept very simple - at least they were for bush/shrubby roses. The only time you would dare approach a rose in anger was...

'...in the third week, of the third month, to the third outward facing bud...'

However, a second pruning can be attempted in November in order to keep your black roses looking tidy over the winter period.

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Based on an article by http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/pruning_roses1.shtml
Images care of http://www.vanmeuwen.com/flowers/flower-plants/cottage-garden-plants/rose-black-baccara/65727VM and http://www.ausgardener.com.au/plants/Rose-%252d-Black-Jade.html

WHAT IS THE WORLD'S MOST POISONOUS FISH?





Sharks apart, the majority of fish species that can be a danger to humans are neither particularly aggressive or see humans as a potential meal. However, they can still be dangerous - even deadly, for an altogether different reason. They are either venomous, and in the majority of cases sting when stepped on or manipulated, or they are are potentially dangerous when eaten - such as the infamous fugu.

That being said, below is a list of potentially deadly fish that you really should be aware of if you intend putting your foot anywhere near the sea - and not just the tropics!

 Stingray (family Dasyatidae)

The Stingray
Clearly the clue is in the name. Stingrays inhabit shallow water, especially in the tropics but can be found in temperate regions as well.

The different species have a distinctive ray shape but their colouration often makes them hard to spot unless they are swimming. Stingrays defend themselves by lashing out with whip-like tails equipped with one or two spines.

Because the spines are barbed they can cause serious gashes; besides, they are venomous in about two-thirds of species. The spines are capable of penetrating wet-suits and shoe leather and have been known to cause serious injury, and even to kill people unlucky enough to have been stabbed in the chest (like the famous herpetologist, Steve Irwin).

Stingrays pose a risk mainly to people wading, who often get injured on the leg, as well as to careless fishers and divers who sometimes get lashed by a startled stingray as they swim above it. Prevention involves shuffling feet when wading. Wounds should be washed thoroughly with sea water and the spines removed carefully.

Scorpion fish or Zebra fish (family Scorpaenidae) 

Lionfish
 Scorpion fish are mostly marine fish that live mainly in the reefs in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The hundreds of species can measure anything between 30 and 90 cm (1-3 feet), are usually reddish in colouration  and have long wavy fins and spines.

They inflict an intensely painful sting and include many of the world's most venomous species such as the Lionfish, or Turkey fish, Dragon fish, Scorpion fish, Fire fish, Firefish, Butterfly cod (family Scorpaenidae).

A Lionfish is any of several species of venomous marine fish in the genera Pterois, Parapterois, Brachypterois, Ebosia or Dendrochirus. Most lionfish inhabit the tropical Indo-Pacific region of the world, though some species can be found worldwide. Recently, lionfish have even been spotted in the warmer coral regions of the eastern Atlantic Ocean around the Azores and extending into the Mediterranean Sea, as well as in the Caribbean Sea.

Lionfish sting
This introduction could be the result of the destruction of an aquarium in southern Florida, by Hurricane Andrew. Lionfish are coloured differently (red, green, red, navy green, brown, orange, yellow, black, maroon or white) but with a distinctive striped appearance with extremely long and separated spines. Like in the stonefish, the dorsal spines are highly venomous and divers and fishers should avoid any contact with these fish.

Fortunately, lionfish are not aggressive towards humans and prefer to keep their distance, when they are given a choice. Spines are used for defence only; the threatened fish faces its attacker in an upside down posture to expose them. For humans, stings are extremely painful and can cause headaches, vomiting and breathing difficulties; however, they are normally not deadly. Medical treatment is still advised, though, as it is difficult to tell how badly a person will react to the venom. A common treatment consists of soaking the stung area in hot water.

Rabbitfish, or Spinefoot, Chimaera, Siganus fish (family Siganidae, order Perciformes)

Rabbitfish
Rabbitfish are found predominantly on the reefs an shallow lagoons in the Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean.

 They are active during the day, some species being solitary, others living in schools. They average about 30 centimetres long (though some measure hardly 10 cm) and have small rabbit-like mouths, large dark eyes, generally bright colours or a complex pattern, and very sharp spines in their fins.

The spines are venomous and can inflict intense pain. These herbivorous fish, though, have a shy temperament (hence their name) and will only use their spines in defence. Their poison is not life-threatening to adult humans, but is likely to cause severe pain.

Weever fish, or Weaverfish (family Trachinidae, order Perciformes) 

Weever fish
The eight species of weever fish are found mostly in tropical waters, though the lesser weever (responsible for most human stings) has a wide distribution: from the southern North Sea to the Mediterranean; it is especially common around the south coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Atlantic coast of France and Spain, and the northern coast of the Mediterranean.

 These fairly slim fish are mainly brownish and measure about 30 cm. All their fins have venomous spines that cause a very painful wound. During the day, weevers bury themselves in sand, usually in shallow waters (especially in the case of the lesser weever), sometimes little more than damp sand, just showing their eyes, and snatch prey (small fish and shrimps) as it comes past.

Weever fish sting
The vast majority of injuries occur to the foot when victims accidentally step on a buried fish; stings are also commonly located on the hands and buttocks.

 Stings are most common in the hours before and after low tide, so one possible precaution is to avoid bathing or paddling at these times. It is also recommended to wear sandals or wetsuit boots with a relatively hard sole (stings can penetrate wet suit rubber soles), and to avoid sitting or "rolling" in the shallows.

 Stings are extremely painful and cause a throbbing pain and swelling in the affected area, sometimes accompanied by a numbness, nausea, joint aches, headaches, abdominal cramps, light-headedness, increased urination and tremors. In rare cases, victims had more severe symptoms, such as abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, weakness, seizures, decreased blood pressure, unconsciousness, and tissue degeneration.

Stonefish (family Synanceja) 

Stonefish
Stonefish occur in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. These 30 cm-long (1 foot) fish are extremely well camouflaged as the lie on seabed, trying to ambush shrimps and small fish, looking exactly like an encrusted rock. They can be found from exposed sand and mud in tidal inlets to depths of 40m.

 Their cryptic colouration and hunting technique make the Stonefish especially dangerous to humans. Indeed, to protect itself against bottom-feeding sharks and rays, these fish have developed 13 defensive spines along their backs. When stepped on, the pressure on the spines causes the sheath under them to shoot venom from their attached glands deep into the wound (It then takes a few weeks for the glands to regenerate and recharge.) The pain is excruciating and can last for hours. It can be accompanied by temporary paralysis, shock and sometimes even death. To avoid being stung, turn over rocks with caution and mostly wear thick-soled shoes and tread gently - spines may penetrate soles if a stonefish is jumped on. 

Catfish (order Siluriformes)

Striped eel catfish 
Catfish are a diverse group of bony fish. Named for their prominent barbels (though some species don't have any), which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size from the heaviest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to the tiny candiru (Vandellia cirrhosa) a parasitic species. Catfish species live in inland or coastal waters of every continent except Antarctica, but are particularly common and diverse in tropical South America, and to a lesser degree in Africa and Asia.

Catfish (with the exception of the electric catfish (Malapteruridae)), when interfered with, produce three barbed spines which stick out at right angles from the back and side fins and can discharge a potent venom and inflict severe wounds (the whisker-like sense organs around their mouths are harmless). Stings from all these fish are painful and can lead to collapse and even death (especially with the striped eel catfish -  Plotosus lineatus) in exceptional circumstances. The venom in the spines remains active for days, so discarded spines and even refrigerated specimens should be treated with caution.

Toadfish (family Batrachoididae, order Batrachoidiformes)

Toadfish are found in the tropical waters off the coasts of South and Central America. Most species are marine, but species in the Thalassophryninae subfamily, especially, occur in brackish water and even in freshwater habitats. Toadfish measure between 17.5 and 25 cm (roughly 2/3 foot), have a dull coloration and a large mouth.

Their English and scientific names come from their toad like appearance. They also share with toad an ability to "sing", using their swim bladder as a sound-production device used to attract mates. Toadfish bury themselves in the sand to ambush their prey and may be easily stepped on. They all have very sharp spines on the dorsal fin, and in the subfamily Thalassophryninae, these are hollow and connect to venom glands capable of delivering a painful wound to predators,and unwary waders.

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Based on an article from https://sites.google.com/site/venomousdangerous/sharks/most-venomous-fish http://web.utah.edu/umed/students/clubs/international/presentations/dangers.html Introduction to Dive Medicine Dangerous Creatures of the Sea and http://www.wilderness-survival.net/Appf.php and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionfish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorpaenidae and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catfish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbitfish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toadfish and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weever
Images care of http://justhungry.com/fugu-puffer-fish-would-you-or-wouldnt-you and http://www.pbase.com/image/73493783 and http://www.ukdivers.net/life/redseaf.htm and http://www.ukdivers.net/life/redseaf.htm and http://fishology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/rabbitfish.html and http://swanagecoastguard.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/weever-fish.html and http://rucksacktroubadour.com/2012/07/23/lionfish-hunting-a-treacherous-first-foray-in-scuba-diving/ and http://www.diverosa.com/Puerto%20Galera/FPG-05%20Striped%20eel%20catfish,%20Plotosus%20lineatus. and http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/23618/Oyster-toadfish

POISONOUS PLANTS







By featured author CHRIS SWEENEY

Over millions of years, plants have developed some crafty ways to fend off hungry animals. Deadly neurotoxins, thorns capable of puncturing car tires, and powerful digestive enzymes are just a few.

Of course producing a lethal cocktail of toxins is as good a way as any to fend off hungry predators, but while they may be designed to be effective against caterpillars and browsing herbivores, these toxins can work just as well on humans. With this in mind, when it comes to furnishing your humble garden plot with plants - buyer beware!

Below are a list - which is in no way complete - of some common garden plants that should be handled with care.

Furthermore, unless you know exactly what you are doing, don't go around foraging for 'edible' plants as this will definitely carry a high risk of self poisoning.

So, it should go without saying that if you have ingested what you believe to been a poisonous plant then seek medical attention immediately, and if you can, take a decent sized sample of the plant you have eaten with you in case the plant needs its identification confirmed by your medical personnel before appropriate treatment can be administered.


1. Most likely to be in your garden now, the Castor Bean Plant:
Ricinus communis

Castor-bean plants can be purchased at just about any garden center, despite containing the deadly poison ricin.

Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants and poisonous plant expert, has an affinity for the plant and grows several in her poison garden.

Concerned gardeners can simply pluck the seeds off the plant, Stewart says, which is where the ricin is stored. Though the process to extract enough ricin and process it into a weapon is complex, Las Vegas authorities have discovered the toxin in a hotel room in February 2008, and the KGB used it to permanently silence opposition.

2. Most violently toxic plant in North America, the Western Water Hemlock: Cicuta douglasii

Deemed the most "violently toxic plant that grows in North America" by the USDA, the water hemlock contains the toxin cicutoxin.

This wreaks havoc on the central nervous system, causing grand mal seizures. These can include loss of consciousness, violent muscle contraction and eventually death, if ingested.

Water hemlock is different from poison hemlock, Socrates' notorious killer, in that it contains coniine alkaloids that kill by paralysing the respiratory system. Both are members of the carrot family.

3. The plant that killed a president's mother, the White snakeroot: 
Eupatorium rugosum

Drinking milk from a cow that decided to chow down on white snakeroot could lead to deadly milk sickness, as was the case with Abraham Lincoln's mother Nancy Hanks.

Every part of this perennial plant contains tremetol, an unsaturated alcohol that can cause muscle tremors in livestock before killing them. "People were trying desperately throughout the 19th century to figure out what was poisoning their animals," Stewart says.

It wasn't understood until the turn of the century, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture pinpointed the cause and quickly got the word out. Now, white snakeroot still grows wild, but more control in the agricultural industry has helped to prevent cows from eating it.

4. The best plant to murder a dinner guest with, Monkshood:
Aconitum napellus

Stewart was once asked what the best plant would be to murder a dinner guest with--after much deliberation she landed on monkshood. "You could just chop up the roots and make a stew," she says. "You don't need a chemistry plant to do it."

The vibrant purple plant, commonly found in backyard gardens, is loaded with the poisonous alkaloid aconite, which tends to cause asphyxiation.

While Stewart is certainly joking about cooking up a batch of monkshood stew, she urges anyone who has the plant in their garden to wear gloves when handling it.

5. The most likely plant to turn a person into a zombie, the Angel Trumpet: 
Brugmansia

The droopy, gorgeous angel trumpet, native to regions of South America, packs a powerful punch of toxins, containing atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine.

As documented in the 2007 VBS.tv documentary "Colombian Devil's Breath," criminals in Colombia have extracted scopolamine from the plant and used it as a potent drug that leaves victims unaware of what they are doing but entirely conscious.

Scopolamine can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes, allowing criminals to simply blow the powder in a person's face. The documentary is filled with scopolamine-related horror stories, including one account of a man moving all of his possessions out of his apartment (and into the hands of his robbers) without remembering any of it.

6. The most enticing poison, Oleander: 
Nerium oleander

This extremely common evergreen shrub is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. "If I were a parent and covering every electrical outlet in the home to protect the kids, I would really have to ask myself why I had an oleander plant growing,"

Stewart says. The leaves, flowers and fruit contain cardiac glycosides, which have therapeutic applications but are likely to send someone into cardiac arrest should he eat part of the plant.

Stewart points out that there is a woman in California currently on death row for trying to poison her husband with the plant, and two young boys were found dead after ingesting oleander a few years back. "People tend to be blasé, because the flowers are bright and pretty, sort of candy-coloured. But it is a very poisonous plant that will stop your heart."

7. Best home-security system, Mala Mujer: 
Cnidoscolus angustidens

Stewart describes this garden plant as more painful than poisonous. Mala mujer, which translates to "bad woman," can be found in parts of the southwest and Mexico and is covered with nasty thorns, which could be turned into makeshift barb-wire if needed. The real danger, however, comes from the caustic, milky sap that can leak from the plant.

The sap, a common feature among many plants in the Euphorbia genus, can cause painful skin irritations and unsightly discolouration. "I've had several people tell me they had euphorbia saps in their eyes," Stewart says. "And they had pretty surprisingly long-term eye damage."

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Based on an article from http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/lawn-garden/4331026
Images care of http://robotics.benedettelli.com/eatingPlant.htm and http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/07/flowering-plants-threat and http://www.satvikshop.com/blog/herbs-knowledge-base/castor and http://www.uniprot.org/taxonomy/48036 and http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/v230/eupatorium-rugosum-chocolate.aspx and http://www.about-garden.com/a/en/3890-aconitum-napellus-monkshood/ and http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/utricularia_macrorhiza.shtml and http://sites.psu.edu/reshmajblog/2012/09/20/randumb-fact-2-dont-tease-the-jaws-of-a-venus-flytrap-each-jaw-can-only-close-a-few-times-before-the-plant-dies/ and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brugmansia_candida_flowers.jpg and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nerium_oleander_cultivars_in_Sedovo_1.jpg and http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2006/08/14/mala-mujer/ and http://wall.alphacoders.com/big.php?i=195225 and
 http://communitygrants.nswminesafety.com.au/idea/kurrung-karni-bush-tucker-education

ADD VALUE AND STYLE TO YOUR BACKYARD WITH A SHED



Written by guest author Danielle McAnn

The little old shed is the place of hobbies, of storage, of workshops. It is like a home just outside of your home. The definition of the shed is so varied that a shed can look like anything really.

A shed is a stylish addition to your back yard, giving everything you do in your backyard a purpose and a centre to revolve around. Having a shed will revolutionise what you do in your backyard, because it makes everything ordered and accessible. Who doesn't need more storage space.

I don't care what anyone else says, the key to a clean, tidy and ordered home is having the right amount of storage space.

I recently built a shed based on one I saw at National Sheds, and now I don't know how I ever did without one. Basic shed designs are really varied, so I spent a while looking around.

Having a shed will also add value to your property, especially if the shed is well-built, good quality and aesthetically pleasing.

Again, the scope for what a shed can look like and do is infinite, so if you want to make your shed multi-storied and windowed with an electricity and hot water connection and sound-proofed walls there's nothing stopping you. If you just want it to be a solid steel box structure with a door and some hooks on the walls, that's OK too. Just build your dream shed, whatever it is, because that way you will enjoy using it, which is after all the whole idea.

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HOW TO PREPARE GROUND FOR TURFING




If you want to grow a successful, quality lawn from turf then the first thing you will need to know is that it is ALL about the preparation! In fact the decisions you make before you even start to work on your new lawn can have a crucial effect on the end result.

PREPARING THE SITE

The proposed area for your new lawn will need to be well drained. If the area suffers from damp or even periodic water logging, it may be necessary to lay either a soak away or drainage pipes under the soil. If drainage problems are not dealt with at this initial stage then you are only opening the door for plenty of work later on.

A lawn will grow best on well drained medium loam. If this sounds like your soil then your preparation can be minimal, but if the soil is clay or sandy, you'll need to do more work.

With heavy clay soils, you should add sharp sand, and any well-rotted organic compost as this will improve drainage under the lawn.

With sandy soils, you should just add well-rotted organic compost as this will help to improve moisture retention under the lawn.

The top soil will need to be prepared to give a fine, workable tilth to a depth of 4 to 5 inches. If you are adding organic matter, you should aim for a minimum depth of 6 inches. If the area of the lawn is fairly small, it can be prepared by hand using a spade. For larger areas it is well worth using a rotavator.

When starting to prepare the soil, it needs to be not too dry and not too wet. Start by digging or rotavating the whole area to the required depth, breaking down any large clumps of soil and remove any stones or rubbish you come across.

TIP. When digging, work backwards so you don't tread down the soil you've just broken up.

Having turned over the whole area and broken down the soil, add only half the sharp sand or organic compost that you need, and dig over or rotavate the whole area again. Once completed, add the other half of the material waiting to be dug in, and go over the whole area once last time.

Rake over the area to level it while removing any vegetation, stones or rubbish which may appear. Now leave the area to settle for a week.

If a lot of weed or vegetation appear in the first week, consider using a non-residual herbicide to kill them off. Carefully follow the instructions and leave the soil for the recommended period before proceeding.

Rake over the area again and remove any more vegetation, stones or rubbish which may appear.

Tread down the entire area. Start in one corner, then walk slowly across the soil placing one foot in front of the other. When you reach the other end, turn around and repeat until the whole area has been trod down (if the area is large, you may need more than one person!). The first time you do this, you'll probably find some humps and dips, remove these by giving the surface a light racking and repeat the treading down.

Once completed - or at least once you have had enough working on it - the ground is now ready for turfing.

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Article based on the writings of http://www.gardeningdata.co.uk/
Photos care of http://www.thedailygreen.com/ and http://blog.mmenterprises.co.uk/ and http://cluedupdads.blogspot.com/ and http://www.easydigging.com/Tool/how_to_use.html

WHAT IS CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE?







Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century.

The London and New York ones are a pair, while the Paris one comes from a different original site, Luxor, where its twin remains.

Although the needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, they are somewhat misnamed as they have no particular connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt.

Furthermore, they were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.

The London "needle" is one such example, as it was originally made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III but was falsely named "Cleopatra's needle".

The Paris "needle" was the first to be moved and re-erected and the first to acquire the nickname.

On erection of the London obelisk in 1878 a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal, it contained:
 A set of 12 photographs of the best looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby's bottle, some children's toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in erection, a 3' bronze model of the monument, a complete set of British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the strange tale of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the bible in several languages, a copy of Whitaker's Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.
Cleopatra's Needle is flanked by two Egyptian sphinxes cast from bronze that bear hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh  - the good god, Thuthmosis III given life.

The two sphinxes are not Egyption as they were cast in bronze at the Ecclestone Iron Works in Pimlico in 1881.

Strangely, these Sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it.

This is because of the Sphinxes' improper or backwards installation. Around the obelisks the Embankment has other Egyptian flourishes, such as buxom winged sphinxes on the armrests of benches.

On 4 September 1917, during World War I, a bomb from a German air raid landed near the needle.

In commemoration of this event, the damage remains unrepaired to this day and is clearly visible in the form of shrapnel holes and gouges on the right-hand sphinx.

How Cleopatra's came to London

Cleopatra’s Needle was presented to the British Government in 1820, although there had been plans to bring it back as early as 1801 as a memorial to the victories of Nelson and Abercromby over the French in Egypt. However, it was 1877 when the obelisk finally arrived in this country.

As it weighed over 200 tons it was encased in an iron cylinder which was then rolled by means of levers and chains down a track into the sea. It was fitted with a deck house, mast, rudder and steering gear and was manned by a crew of Maltese sailors. This ‘craft’ was named Cleopatra and was to be towed to Great Britain by the steamship Olga. They sailed on 21 September 1877. Captain Henry Carter (who had supervised her construction) commanded the Cleopatra and Captain Booth was in command of the Olga.

The two vessels could only make 7 knots and disaster struck in the Bay of Biscay when the tow ropes had to be cut in a violent storm on 14 October 1877. The Cleopatra began wildly rolling, and became untenable. The Olga sent out a rescue boat with six volunteers, but the boat capsized and all six crew were lost - named today on a bronze plaque attached to the foot of the needle's mounting stone.

Cleopatras Needle in transport casing
Eventually Captain Carter and his crew were rescued and the Cleopatra drifted away in the storm.

It was assumed she was lost but she was later sighted by the Fitzmaurice and towed in to Ferrol Harbour. From there, she was towed back to England by the paddle tug Anglia arriving at Gravesend on 21 Janaury 1878.

The obelisk was eventually erected on the Thames Embankment while the Cleopatra was broken up immediately after the obelisk had been removed on 6 July 1878.

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Based on an article from http://www.rmg.co.uk/explore/sea-and-ships/facts/faqs/general/how-was-cleopatra-s-needle-transported-to-london and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra's_Needle
Images care of http://thames.me.uk/s00110.htm and http://vichist.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/threading-cleopatras-needle.html and http://openplac.es/trips/cleopatra-s-needle-in-london-greater-london-wc2n-6-gb and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cleopatra's_Needle_(London)_sphinx_2.jpg

WHAT ARE THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS PLANTS?






By featured author CHRIS SWEENEY

Over millions of years, plants have developed some crafty ways to fend off hungry animals. Deadly neurotoxins, thorns capable of puncturing car tires, and powerful digestive enzymes are just a few. Following the recent discovery of Nepenthes attenboroughii, a giant pitcher plant large enough to digest rodents, Chris tracked down poison-plant aficionado Amy Stewart to discuss some of the world's deadliest plants.

1. Most likely to eat a rat Giant Pitcher Plant: 
Nepenthes attenboroughii

Discovered more than 5000 feet above sea level on Mount Victoria in the Philippines, the giant, carnivorous pitcher plant secretes a nectar-like substance to lure unsuspecting prey into a pool of enzymes and acid.

A series of sticky, downward ribs makes it nearly impossible for trapped prey to escape. The plant's 30-centimetre diameter is large enough to trap unlucky rodents, but insects are its most common meal. Pitcher plants, of which there are about 600 different species, tend to grow in nitrogen-deficient environments, and therefore get their nutrients from decaying victims.

2. Most likely to be in your garden now Castor Bean Plant:
Ricinus communis

Castor-bean plants can be purchased at just about any garden center, despite containing the deadly poison ricin.

Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants and poisonous plant expert, has an affinity for the plant and grows several in her poison garden.

Concerned gardeners can simply pluck the seeds off the plant, Stewart says, which is where the ricin is stored. Though the process to extract enough ricin and process it into a weapon is complex, Las Vegas authorities have discovered the toxin in a hotel room in February 2008, and the KGB used it to permanently silence opposition.

3. Most violently toxic plant in North America Western Water Hemlock: Cicuta douglasii

Deemed the most "violently toxic plant that grows in North America" by the USDA, the water hemlock contains the toxin cicutoxin.

This wreaks havoc on the central nervous system, causing grand mal seizures. These can include loss of consciousness, violent muscle contraction and eventually death, if ingested.

Water hemlock is different from poison hemlock, Socrates' notorious killer, in that it contains coniine alkaloids that kill by paralysing the respiratory system. Both are members of the carrot family.

4. The plant that killed a president's mother White snakeroot: Eupatorium rugosum

Drinking milk from a cow that decided to chow down on white snakeroot could lead to deadly milk sickness, as was the case with Abraham Lincoln's mother Nancy Hanks.

Every part of this perennial plant contains tremetol, an unsaturated alcohol that can cause muscle tremors in livestock before killing them. "People were trying desperately throughout the 19th century to figure out what was poisoning their animals," Stewart says.

It wasn't understood until the turn of the century, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture pinpointed the cause and quickly got the word out. Now, white snakeroot still grows wild, but more control in the agricultural industry has helped to prevent cows from eating it.

5. The best plant to murder a dinner guest with Monkshood:
Aconitum napellus

Stewart was once asked what the best plant would be to murder a dinner guest with--after much deliberation she landed on monkshood. "You could just chop up the roots and make a stew," she says. "You don't need a chemistry plant to do it."

The vibrant purple plant, commonly found in backyard gardens, is loaded with the poisonous alkaloid aconite, which tends to cause asphyxiation.

While Stewart is certainly joking about cooking up a batch of monkshood stew, she urges anyone who has the plant in their garden to wear gloves when handling it.

6. Most gruesome killer Common Bladderwort: 
Utricularia macrorhiza

This aquatic meat eater relies on several submerged bladders to capture prey such as tadpoles and small crustaceans.

An unsuspecting passer by will brush against an external bristle-trigger, causing the bladders to spring open and capture it.

Once inside, the victim dies of suffocation or starvation and then decays into a liquid that is sucked up by cells on the walls of the bladder.


7. Most animal-like Venus flytrap: 
Dionaea muscipula

With the ability to clamp shut in a half-second, the Venus flytrap's reaction time seems fit for the animal kingdom. Insects need to touch two of the flytrap's hairs consecutively in order for the plant to react, but the precise mechanism that shuts the trap remains unclear.

The Botanical Society of America notes that early theories suggested that a sudden change in the water pressure of cells triggered the response, but this theory has since been abandoned.

It now seems that when the plant is touched, the electrical potential of the leaf is altered, triggering a host of cellular-level events.

8. The most likely plant to turn a person into a zombie Angel Trumpet: 
Brugmansia

The droopy, gorgeous angel trumpet, native to regions of South America, packs a powerful punch of toxins, containing atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine.

As documented in the 2007 VBS.tv documentary "Colombian Devil's Breath," criminals in Colombia have extracted scopolamine from the plant and used it as a potent drug that leaves victims unaware of what they are doing but entirely conscious.

Scopolamine can be absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes, allowing criminals to simply blow the powder in a person's face. The documentary is filled with scopolamine-related horror stories, including one account of a man moving all of his possessions out of his apartment (and into the hands of his robbers) without remembering any of it.

9. The most enticing poison Oleander: 
Nerium oleander

This extremely common evergreen shrub is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. "If I were a parent and covering every electrical outlet in the home to protect the kids, I would really have to ask myself why I had an oleander plant growing,"

Stewart says. The leaves, flowers and fruit contain cardiac glycosides, which have therapeutic applications but are likely to send someone into cardiac arrest should he eat part of the plant.

Stewart points out that there is a woman in California currently on death row for trying to poison her husband with the plant, and two young boys were found dead after ingesting oleander a few years back. "People tend to be blasé, because the flowers are bright and pretty, sort of candy-coloured. But it is a very poisonous plant that will stop your heart."

10. Best home-security system Mala Mujer: 
Cnidoscolus angustidens

Stewart describes this garden plant as more painful than poisonous. Mala mujer, which translates to "bad woman," can be found in parts of the southwest and Mexico and is covered with nasty thorns, which could be turned into makeshift barb-wire if needed. The real danger, however, comes from the caustic, milky sap that can leak from the plant.

The sap, a common feature among many plants in the Euphorbia genus, can cause painful skin irritations and unsightly discolouration. "I've had several people tell me they had euphorbia saps in their eyes," Stewart says. "And they had pretty surprisingly long-term eye damage."

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Based on an article from http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/improvement/lawn-garden/4331026
Images care of http://robotics.benedettelli.com/eatingPlant.htm and http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/07/flowering-plants-threat and http://www.satvikshop.com/blog/herbs-knowledge-base/castor and http://www.uniprot.org/taxonomy/48036 and http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/plant-finder/plant-details/kc/v230/eupatorium-rugosum-chocolate.aspx and http://www.about-garden.com/a/en/3890-aconitum-napellus-monkshood/ and http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/utricularia_macrorhiza.shtml and http://sites.psu.edu/reshmajblog/2012/09/20/randumb-fact-2-dont-tease-the-jaws-of-a-venus-flytrap-each-jaw-can-only-close-a-few-times-before-the-plant-dies/ and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brugmansia_candida_flowers.jpg and http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nerium_oleander_cultivars_in_Sedovo_1.jpg and http://fireflyforest.net/firefly/2006/08/14/mala-mujer/