by Michael W. Beug Email: beugm@evergreen.edu
The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA
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Slide 75.
Claviceps purpurea, or Ergot, can be deadly poisonous. This slide shows the sclerotium, or resting stage of Claviceps purpurea growing on rye grain. Poisoning can occur if the sclerotia are harvested with the grain, are not removed in the cleaning stage, and then are ground into flour. Claviceps purpurea causes a gangrenous condition of the extremities as well as madness. It was used into the early 20th century to hasten childbirth because it causes contractions of the muscles of the uterus. A number of alkaloids can be isolated from Ergot and studies of them led to the discovery of histamine, ergosterol and the synthesis of LSD, a potent hallucinogen.
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