Croton tiglium ?;
Croton Tree? : 2 posts by 2 authors.
Whilst reading “Kublai Khan” I came across something interesting that the author, John Man wrote about the Croton Tree which grows in Indian and Indonesia. He writes that ‘..the oil of its seeds blisters the skin and, if swallowed, inflames the stomach and produces instant diarrhoea’. Which species is he referring to please?
The above-mentioned oil was only part of the ingredients that the Chinese used in making, what the author calls, ‘shit-and-beetle-bomb’. They mixed 7 kgs of powdered human excrement + 400gms root of Aconite + 200gms Croton oil + 40gms white arsenic + 100gms beetles of the genus Mylabris (Blister Beetle) with gunpowder and used this lethal bomb on its enemies. These bombs were made in/around 1257 so this apparently was a precurser to chemical and germ warfare used centuries later as we have read: tear gas and chlorine by the Germans (actually, started by the French) in World War I, and Agent Orange (A defoliant) used by the Americans in Vietnam.
The Blister Beetle, as we all know, secretes Cantharidin, a poisonous chemical that causes blistering of the skin. These are very large black-and-red beetles that we so often photograph on flowers. Incidentally, they have a penchant for yellow flowers.
This link will hopefully help you a bit!!