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After the last two blogs on Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia, can you imagine my surprise when I came across a reference to the common genus of plants known as milkweeds? Wait! Let me explain. They are in the genus Asclepias, yet they are poisonous to humans. In fact, I remember as a child playing with them as they grew wild around my house in New Jersey.

They are called milkweeds because they exude a form of latex, a milky substance that, in this case, is toxic to humans and many other animals. (I am now keen on researching why Carl Linnaeus in 1753 named the plant after the Greek god of healing.) The latex contains a substance that disables the membranes of animal cells from taking in the calcium and potassium they need. Native tribes in South America and Africa, recognizing the toxicity of the latex, have long used it as an arrow poison.

Since the publication of THE DEADLIEST THIEF, I have been writing a series of short stories. One mystery is based on a poison from ground-up beetle larvae. So, I need to tell you that not all that is declared “natural” is healthful. But reading my stories definitely is. You don’t have to worry about wearing a mask or observing social distancing to be among exciting people. Just click here to enjoy one.

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