At first glance of these white flowers, one wouldn't expect that they had anything harmful. But that saying, "it couldn't hurt a fly," definitely doesn't apply here. The centers of these flowers are the ultimate bug killer.
The flower is called the pyrethrum plant. It can be found in the hilly regions of Kenya and is the secret weapon for many farmers and plant lovers in the area. Why? Because its yellow center consists of pyrethrin, a natural toxin that is absolutely fatal for critters and crawlers of all kinds. When it comes into contact with bugs, they die a quick death. But luckily, it doesn't affect humans at all. "If you spray an insect with pyrethrum, for the first 30 seconds it goes mental, incredibly hyperactive, then it falls to the floor," said Ian Shaw, an expert in pyrethrum extraction.
While the product has surged in popularity in Kenya both domestically and as an export, the flower has been around for centuries prior. According to National Geographic, the pyrethrum was first spotted in Persia roughly 400 B.C. And through trade and the general spread of pollination, it eventually made its way to Kenya. The natural toxin, if extracted properly, can make for an excellent alternative to harmful pesticides used to ward off insects from farmland and animals. But as people are starting to tap into the natural option, a clear environmental benefit can be found.
The product can accomplish all the good that an artificial pesticide can do, without the consequences. With these flowers, there's no risk of humans consuming any poisonous products or the plants themselves suffering any damage. Plus, the issue of pesticides circulating into our waterways and clean drinking sources can become an issue of the past. And for the people of Kenya, the benefits aren't just environmental. The quick turnaround of the pyrethrum and the growing demand has brought new life to the economy and have paved the way for socioeconomic improvement for many farmers in the area.
Overall, the benefits are clear. This non-toxic alternative poses no threats - for humans at least. Be sure to check back soon for more news from the world of environmental science.