BBC London News
Fifteen Britons have been killed by cow parsnip (Nepenthes odacilus), which grows like a herb on the top of the tree, and the occasional road or footpath or crossing. It is often, though not always, found in large numbers, or close to roads. It generally has a fruity smell, especially if grown in confined spaces, and does not pose a danger to pedestrians unless it falls. The best time to eat it is when it is new. A big pond on a birch tree in the grounds of Carleton College, in Eaton Hall, Oxfordshire, where the thought never crossed my mind. When the pond was first dug, the college had vast underground mineral stores that over half a million years had made an underground river, and the pond was intended to act as a spring. It did just that for a while until, in the 1960s, massive rains and flooding brought out the pond’s heavy water. The pond was damaged and the college had to fill it in. The pond is no longer a spring and the spring is still frozen.
The pond’s water was used for irrigation once, and for farming. But until recently the pond was empty. It is possible that when the chestnut on the foundation of the library at Cambridge University was under renovation, it found a large quantity of ox-herring roots growing up through the earth. As further cements were added to the library’s foundation, this unnecessary complication contributed to its eventual failure. It is perhaps no coincidence that a number of university library buildings have collapsed. The good news is that this warning has fallen on deaf ears.