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Poisonous plants and fungi in Britain and Ireland—interactive identification systems on CD-ROM
  1. A S Gloster

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    E Daincey, T G J Rayner, D A Shah-Smith, editors. (£39.95). Royal Botanical Gardens, London, 2002. ISBN 1-900347-92-X

    Poisonous plants and fungi is a fun, easy to use guide in identifying plants and fungi commonly seen in the areas we live. The pictures used on the CD ROM are excellent as they show the various plants/fungi in different stages of growth and seasons.

    The CD ROM works by asking a series of questions about the plant/fungi in question. A process of elimination begins from your responses to the questions. This can be time consuming as you may be asked up to 20 different questions; this is done to reduce the result to less than five possible suspects. You may decide to skip questions, this will then result with a list of up to 229 suspects to search through.

    Once a suspect is identified you can then search through the following list about the suspects, if still unsure you may then move to view the next suspect; photographs are available to view with a zoom facility, a summary on the plant/fungi, the toxicity of the suspect.

    A print option is also available, and you can exit at any point and restart your search.

    The CD ROM also allows the medical practitioner to look at poison syndromes, asking specific questions about symptoms and time of onset, then giving you a possible poison syndrome and the plants/fungi involved.

    There are some botanical words that may leave you baffled, do not worry as there is a glossary that you can access through the help icon. (I did this many times!)

    From an emergency department perspective this is a useful tool, but the editors do state this is only a guide and the content should not be used for diagnostic purposes and therefore a need to contact the poisons information is still required.

    It should be remembered that the plants/fungi covered are only aimed for Britain and Ireland and therefore cannot be used for those returning from foreign travel. The CD ROM is in colour, and the editors also state that a colour blind person should not use this.

    This software is excellent for teaching anyone about various toxins found in common plants and fungi. Teachers in schools or parents at home could use it. However, in the emergency department setting it should be used with caution, as the editors write in their disclaimer. This should be used as an educational tool for all professionals, members of the public, and schools as intended by the authors.