Friday, October 8, 2010

Leymus condensatus--Giant Ryegrass

Maybe there is real rye someplace at the UC Botanical Garden, but I don't know where. Is it Lolium? Secale? I can't figure it out. But we do have a California native rye. Leymus is susceptible to to ergot just like rye used for food. Ergot is a fungus that makes people feel like they are flying if eaten, but is even more effective as a hallucinogen if it is applied to mucus membranes. Witches did this starting in the 1400s. But when people eat it inadvertently, bigger problems arise. Some researches think that the Salem Witch Trials were a result of ergot poisoning. Perhaps after a wet winter, people ate bread made from infected rye. The ergot can cause people to tremble, writhe, spasm and seize. They scream and dance because they feeling like they are burning. So maybe they seemed like they were possessed or like they were witches. Then others were perhaps not so seriously infected, but still poisoned enough that they were irrational. So my guess is that both the accused and the accusers were sick. But no one really knows.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Giant ryegrass is a foodplant for caterpillars of the brown ctenucha, a day-flying moth that in the Santa Monica mountains visits the flowers of toyon. They also go to flowers of salt heliotrope on the coast. Ctenucha brunnea has brown wings edged in black and white, a red head with some orange-red on the thorax and a bright blue abdomen.