The 1883 Guide to Protecting Your Friends with Poisonous Flowers

Have you ever felt the smile freeze on your face when you realize your closest friend has been introduced to a deceptive person who has turned on their full charm? When the rules of politeness must be engaged, how do you warn someone you love to take heed? With flowers, of course! According to “American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness” the simple act of presenting your friend with a flower can convey a life-saving message. That is, assuming your friend knows what it means and their enemy does not. So be sure and send this article to your best friend, so both of you will be prepared. You can safely assume almost anyone else you meet today will not have read this gem of a book written in 1883, nor met any of the professors who collaborated on it and will be caught off their guard.

Monkshood – A deadly foe is near

Monkshood, also known as wolfsbane is a lovely blue or purple flower that can quickly impart the message that a deadly foe is near. Of course, Monkshood is poisonous, with all parts proving dangerous, including the sap, so perhaps it is the deadly foe. Historically, the plant was used to kill unwanted animals. It is advised to wear gloves while handling the plant so avoid picking it with your bare fingers. But it makes a great hedge plant, so if you ever find yourself residing near enemy territory, consider planting a row to warn your friends to turn around and walk the other way.

Oleander – Beware

As a child who grew up around this lovely plant, I can attest that its smell is wonderfully deceptive with a sort of vanilla, floral scent. And despite the fact that I used to pick the blossoms and wear them in my hair, I feel morally responsible to inform you that they too, are indeed poison and can cause skin irritation. In the language of flowers, however, Oleander sends out the message of “beware!” One can easily see how the plant may have gained that reputation. Still, if you see your friend’s ex walking toward you, it’s much more polite to point at an oleander plant growing nearby than at another human. “Look at those lovely, fragrant, poisonous blossoms! Shall we turn this corner to investigate?”

Everlasting pea – wilt go with me?

A safer way to entice your friend to follow you to safety would be to present them with a flower from the “everlasting pea” plant, also known as the sweet pea. This plant, unlike the others, is only mildly poisonous. The everlasting pea plant may be found growing on a nearby mound or adorning a fence. While it doesn’t hold an enticing smell, it also will not cause any harm to the friend you’re seeking to save, unless they eat a very large quantity of its seeds. So be sure to tell them, despite the name, the pea is poisonous and best reserved for mattress tests for potential princesses.

Mistletoe – I surmount all difficulties.

Now that you have convinced your friend that a deadly foe is near, that he or she ought to beware of your surroundings, and they have consented to follow you, make sure you ensure them that you are a trustworthy guide. You may do this by presenting your final poisonous plant: mistletoe. This will give them the clear message that they are perfectly safe with you by silently declaring, “I surmount all difficulties.” Just be sure that such a presentation is done from the front and do not dangle the mistletoe anywhere above your friend’s head. If you fail in this, you will give another message altogether. This may cause you to inadvertently either estrange said friend or transform him or her into a lover. So, pick your poisonous plants carefully and beware of all consequences of using them.

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