Deadly risk of confusion wild garlic lily of the valley

Deadly risk of confusion: wild garlic, lily of the valley and…

Lily of the valley and autumn crocus are poisonous. Its leaves are similar to wild garlic. Here's an overview of how to tell them apart.

Wild garlic is one of the first signs of spring; its scent irritates the noses of sun-starved hikers in parks and forests. Its leaves, in addition to being tasty, are also used as a remedy against atherosclerosis and hypertension, as well as detoxification. But the plant is very similar to lily of the valley and autumn crocus, which can be fatal.

The pungent smell of garlic is unique and can be perceived from several meters away, but external appearance can be deceiving. The most important feature of wild garlic: its leaves emerge individually from the ground and are clearly divided into a lancet-shaped leaf surface and a thin petiole. When you tear it, the juice has a strong garlic smell.

Autumn crocus: deadly with three leaves or more

But wild garlic often appears at the same time as the poisonous autumn crocus (Colchicum Autumnale). Its leaves are narrow, elongated, rest on the stalkless stem and emerge from the ground in tufts. Younger shoots are embraced by older shoots. Autumn crocus sap is odorless. If you've collected wild garlic before, the juice stuck to your hands may give off a garlicky smell when you check it.

Just three to four leaves of autumn crocus can be fatal. The cellular poison contained in the plant – colchicine – only takes effect after a few hours. The first symptoms of poisoning occur in the form of nausea and vomiting. This is followed by diarrhea and intestinal, blood and bone marrow cells are destroyed, which can lead to death after about two days.

Lily of the valley is rarely fatal

Confusion with lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) usually does not have such serious consequences: glycosides, which can cause cardiac arrhythmias, are toxic to humans. However, these are poorly absorbed by the intestine and quickly excreted by the kidneys. Life-threatening poisonings are rare. The plant usually grows in pairs, with older leaves hugging younger leaves.

The leaves of the poisonous garden tulip (Tulipa hybrid), which occasionally goes crazy, can also cause a fatal mess. When the flowering plant does not flower, it only produces a single leaf that resembles wild garlic. Contains tulipine, which has a similar effect to colchicine in autumn saffron. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea may occur 15 minutes after consumption. Severe poisoning leads to shock, apathy and, in the worst case, death from respiratory failure.

Wild garlic grows in the shade

Wild garlic grows in shady, humus-rich floodplains and nutrient-rich river forests. In the Alps, leaves and stems 15 to 30 centimeters long can be found up to altitudes of 1,700 meters. Only the young leaves before flowering are used in cooking. Since “wild garlic” only grows locally in large quantities, only one or two leaves should be plucked and the bulb should remain buried.

The flavor of wild garlic is milder than that of garden garlic and, when consumed in moderate amounts, does not cause an unpleasant odor. It is best to use fresh leaves for seasoning. Wild garlic should generally not be cooked, but should be mixed raw into hot dishes – such as soups, sauces and vegetables – or used as a salad. The plant isn't just healthy for humans: bears are also said to seek out the herb after hibernation to cleanse their stomach, intestines and blood. (APA)

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