Poisonous plants -- garden, wayside, and exotic -- are meticulously described and exquisitely illustrated in full color and b&w by a botanical artist. Dowden gives herbal histories of dozens of plants that have been used in magic, witchcraft, and medicine, from common garden dwellers like lily of the valley and English ivy to the rarer rosary pea and madagascar periwinkle. Her text assumes a measure of erudition; e.g., she notes that the opium poppy ""became one of the most valued drugs, used chiefly for its sedative effect, but also as a purgative and an astringent"" and uses such terms as ""alkaloids"" and ""glycosides"" without explanation. All the plants are identified by scientific and common name and drawn at half their natural sizes. While beautifully detailed, the compression makes the art less dramatic than that in such books as Dowden's This Noble Harvest: A Chronicle of Herbs (1979). Still, outstandingly handsome as well as useful. Index of plants; subject index.