Poisonous party

A visit on a sunny afternoon (at last!) to the Royal College of Physicians in Regents Park where the London Group held their summer party. A delightful venue for a party, with quite exceptional catering and service. 

We were entertained and enlightened before the serious business of the drinks and canapes, by Dr Henry Oakeley, Garden Fellow of the College and National Collection Holder of Lycaste orchids.

Dr Oakeley is author of two books on the plants on the garden: ‘Doctors in the Medicinal Garden, Plants named after physicians’, and ‘A Year in the Garden of the Royal College of Physicians’. There are regular tours of the garden in the summer, which I would highly recommend; it is not a large garden but the wealth of knowledge you will be presented with is out of all proportion to its physical size.

A few snippets to whet your appetite (or not as the case may be). We were given a lesson in how to harvest opium from poppies, and warned that if we ate too much poppy seed covered bread we would test positive for opium for up to a week afterwards.

We were also introduced to Halesia carolina, named after Rev. Stephen Hales who was the first to measure blood pressure and the pressure of sap in plants.  I won’t describe how he measured blood pressure, but the animals involved were unlikely to have survived the experience!

Apparently, Rev. Hales was also the person who thought to place an inverted cup or egg-cup under the pastry in a pie to stop it collapsing downwards.

There is also a sizable banana tree (Musa basjoo) in the garden, which may take its name from Antonius Musa, botanist and physician who attempted to cure Augustus Caesar of sciatica by beating him with a stick.  They were clearly a botanical family as his brother Euphorbus also had a plant named after him, I will leave to you to work out which one.