Wandering in the Black Forest of Germany, I came across this pretty red mushroom with white spots. I immediately recognized it from pictures in old story books, especially those featuring Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This mushroom, or toadstool if you prefer (terms which technically can be used interchangeably), has hallucinogenic properties. Perhaps this was the Grimm brothers’ secret for writing scary fairy tales.
Love it or hate it, the Silybum marianum (better known as Milk Thistle) is well known around the world. Originally from southern Europe, this plant is now a noxious weed in many parts of the world. It is a prolific seed producer–the beautiful purple blooms develop into cottony seeds, similar to a dandelion. The milk thistle is toxic to grazing animals, but an extract made from the seeds contains silymarin, a very potent compound that protects the liver from certain toxicities.