Plants and People

Random History Quiz

Can you name the plants that intersected with human history in some way?

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hintCommon NameScientific Name
An efficient way to load bunches of this fruit onto boats inspired the chair ski lift.Musa spp.
Also responsible for St. Anthony's fire, this fungus may have caused the 'possession' that led to the Salem Witch Trials.Claviceps purpura
Eating only this new-world staple can cause pellagra (niacin deficiency). Did this give rise to vampire legends?Zea mays
Mussolini's men inflicted diarrhea on dissidents by force-feeding oil from this plant.Ricinus communis
Hannibal drugged defenders of Carthage with wine from this 'screaming' root.Mandragora officinarum
Common name comes from Jamestown, whose colonists used it to incapacitate the British (their 'trip' lasted 11 days).Datura stramonium
Slave women in the Dutch West Indies, wanting to spare their children slavery, used this plant to induce abortion.Caesalpinia pulcherrima
In the early 17th century, these flowers inspired a huge speculation bubble. When it burst, the Dutch economy crashed.Tulipa spp.
Timoleon's men successfully defened Syracuse from the Carthaginians while wearing victory wreaths made of this herb, usually used fresh.Petroselinum spp.
Milk from cows that ate this plant killed Abraham Lincoln's mother and hundreds of other settlers.Eupatorium rugosum
Mithridates VI left combs of this toxic honey for invading Romans, then killed the soldiers.Rhododendron spp.
Caribbean tourists are warned about this tree, which blinded woodcutters from Captain Cook's crew for two weeks (and whose sap poisoned Ponce de Leon's fatal arrow).Hippomane mancinella

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