Monday, February 14, 2011
Don't Taste the Rainbow
Amorphophallus bulbifer is ripening a lot of fruit this year, at the UConn EEB greenhouses. In spite of appearances, and the fact that birds or some other animal disperser probably eats them, it would probably be a bad idea for a person to sample these berries. Amorphophallus is an aroid (family Araceae), a group known for being toxic to humans. In many aroids, all parts of the plant contain microscopic calcium oxalate crystals, which irritate the lining of the mouth and throat, causing intense pain and swelling that can be life-threatening if the airway becomes constricted. In some aroids and for some people, the crystals can even cause pain and rashes on the skin of hands exposed to sap from cut plant parts.