Last April, I grew lobelia from seed. It seemed to take ages to germinate, then grow, then flower. These plants are hanging basket essentials, and their trailing varieties really add a touch of class, concealing the basket’s ugly sides. They began to flower in August, which disappointed me, the best of summer having been and gone. Yet they were still flowering in December, adding a splash of blue colour to an otherwise grey season. The plant contains lobeline, a pyridine alkaloid. The Pub Chem website explains it this way:

Lobeline is an optically active piperidine alkaloid having a 2-oxo-2-phenylethyl substituent at the 2-position and a 2-hydroxy-2-phenylethyl group at the 6-position. It has a role as a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist. It is a piperidine alkaloid, a tertiary amine and an aromatic ketone.

Some A-level chemistry students I know enjoyed turning the above paragraph into bizarre, symbol-based diagrams on the whiteboard, but I suspect their understanding of lobeline was little better than mine. Wikipedia makes it a little easier:

Ingestion of lobeline may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, dizziness, visual disturbances, hearing disturbances, mental confusion, weakness, slowed heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased breathing rate, tremors, and seizures.

Even those of us lacking a degree in chemistry, are likely to understand that it is probably not something one should order in a restaurant. Such a pretty flower with such a hazardous ingredient. Proverbs 7 describes the harlot’s ministrations in luring away naïve young men:

With her enticing speech she caused him to yield,
With her flattering lips she seduced him.
Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
Till an arrow struck his liver.
As a bird hastens to the snare,
He did not know it would cost his life. (vv21-23, NKJV)

Although it describes her crafty methods rather than her captivating beauty, I dare say she still looked the part. Beware of pretty things which cause illness and death; beware of attractive looking ventures which distract you from truth and righteousness.