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Collaborators launch new ‘Harmful Nova Scotia Plants’ app

Which plants are safe? Which can hurt you? Halifax experts put the info at your fingertips

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A new app makes it easy to identify dangerous Nova Scotian plants.

About two weeks ago, software engineer Gordon Isnor and Nova Scotia Museum botany curator Marian Munro gifted Nova Scotians with a new app just in time for spring. “Harmful Nova Scotia Plants” launched just four months after Isnor and Munro’s first collaborative project, “Useful Nova Scotia Plants.”

“[Useful Nova Scotia Plants] was very well received, we got a lot of downloads, and we were really happy with how it turned out,” says Isnor. “The second one was [Munro’s] idea, because she had already done a website, I think it was many, many years ago, called Poison Plant Patch. She felt like it was time for an upgrade.”

“Harmful Nova Scotia Plants” provides a wealth of relevant information on each plant. Not only does it provide names, photos, and detailed descriptions of the plants, it also explains where the plants came from originally, and identifies the name of the plant’s poison, highlights possible “Poison Scenarios,” and describes the symptoms.

For example, the “Beef Steak Begonia” is much more sinister than its name implies. According to the app, this plant contains calcium oxalates which, when ingested, can cause “intense burning sensation of the mouth, throat, lips and tongue; excessive drooling, choking and swelling of the throat, inability or difficulty swallowing,” for up to two weeks.

Where “Harmful Nova Scotia Plants” is a warning, “Useful Nova Scotia Plants” is a celebration. Munro provides details on a range of edible Nova Scotia plants, with entries on everything from American Black Currant to Yarrow.

Isnor says both apps contain some unexpected listings.

“When you’re scanning through, what can be surprising is that there are a lot of familiar things, like apples, and nutmeg, and aloe vera,” says Isnor. “It’s an interesting thing because there are a lot of plants that could be edible or harmful, or poisonous, depending on how you use them.”

Both apps are available for Android and iOS, with the information also posted online.

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