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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fly Poison (Amianthium muscitoxicum), The Shenandoah Valley , 1996

Fly Poison (Amianthium muscitoxicum), The Shenandoah Valley , 1996

Amianthium muscitoxicum

Amianthium muscitoxicum (Walter) A. Gray

Fly poison, Crow poison

Liliaceae (Lily Family)

Synonym(s): Chrosperma muscitoxicumZigadenus muscitoxicus


USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The numerous narrow, elongated leaves and the 12-24 in. flower stalk superficially resemble common hyacinth. Flowers, occuring in a dense, showy raceme are first white, then bronzy-green. Leaves tend to spread outward and arch downward.

Pulp from a crushed bulb, mixed with sugar, is used to poison flies, hence the species name, from the Latin muscae (flies) and toxicum (poison). Bunchflower (Veratrum virginicum) has a somewhat similar white flower; its three petals and three sepals have narrow, stalk-like bases with two dark glands on each; there are several spikes in a cluster.
Native Cherokee used the plant as a dermatological cure for itch, colonists used the bulb mixed with sugar to kill flies.

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