There is probably no area in clinical toxicology more steeped in folklore, misunderstood, or mismanaged than plant and mushroom poisoning. Although there are thousands of species of plants capable of producing moderate to severe and possibly fatal poisoning, relatively few cases of serious intoxication occur in the United States and these are associated with a limited number of plants. The majdrity of the victims of plant poisoning are children under 6, but recently older age groups of children have become more vulnerable due to the increased popularity of camping, natural food cultism, and the search by some for naturally occurring hallucmnogens.

Because of incomplete reporting and limited means for physicians to obtain plant identifications, it is very difficult to prepare meaningful statistics on serious or fatal poisonings by plants containing systemically active toxins. For the United States it may be estimated that approximately half of these cases involve mushrooms. The remaining are distributed among a variety of species with different pharmacological properties.

One of the most perplexing problems facing those concerned with Poison Control Information Centers is the call from the panicky mother that her child has or may have swallowed a red berry growing on a bushy little plant with funny looking green leaves in the backyard. Equally frustrating is the parent who appears in the pediatrician's office with a wilted plant specimen announcing that this is growing all over the neighborhood, is it poisonous? Plant identification is becoming even more difficult with the increasing number of ornamentals and horticultural varieties introduced throughout the country.

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