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NONFICTION : POISONOUS PLANTS OF CALIFORNIA by Thomas C. Fuller and Elizabeth McClintock (University of California: $25; 433 pp., illustrated).

August 09, 1987|Barbara Saltzman

In the popular mind, the word organic almost has become synonymous with purity. If something is "organically grown," it must be good for you, better than something that has come in contact with chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Think hemlock and think again. Anyone raising young animals or children, from cattle to household pets to 2-year-olds whose idea of fun is putting everything in their mouths, shouldn't be without this book. Hundreds of plants commonly used in local landscaping and others native to California can be toxic, even fatal, when ingested. Just how toxic and under what circumstances make up the bulk of this valuable work. Also helpful are appendices listing plants that can cause dermatitis and hay fever and asthma. It would be helpful if this clearly written, well-organized reference contained illustrations of each plant discussed for easy identification by the lay person. Unfortunately, black-and-white illustrations are too small and spotty to be really helpful, and clear color photos on 16 plates are clumped together--far away from the discussion of the plants in question.

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