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The strychnine tree (Strychnos nux-vomica L.) also known as nux vomica, poison nut, semen strychnos, Liz Vomica and quaker buttons, is a deciduous tree native to India, southeast Asia. It is a medium-sized tree in the family Loganiaceae that grows in open habitats. Its leaves are ovate and 2-3.5 inches in size.
It is a major source of the highly poisonous alkaloids strychnine and brucine, derived from the seeds inside the tree's round, green to orange fruit. The seeds contain approximately 1.5% strychnine, and the dried blossoms contain 1.0%. However, the tree's bark also contains brucine and other poisonous compounds.
S. nux-vomica is a medium-sized tree with a short thick trunk. The wood is dense, hard white, and close-grained. The branches are irregular and are covered with a smooth ashen bark. The young shoots are a deep green colour with a shiny coat. The leaves have an opposite arrangement, short stalked, are oval shaped, also have a shiny coat and are smooth on both sides. The leaves are about 4 inches long and 3 inches wide. The flowers are small with a pale green colour with a funnel shape. They bloom in the cold season and have a foul smell. The fruit are about the size of a large apple with a smooth and hard shell which when ripened is a lovely orange colour. The meat of the fruit is soft and white with a jelly-like pulp containing five seeds covered with a soft woolly substance.
The seeds are removed from the fruit when ripe. They are then cleaned, dried and sorted. The seeds have the shape of a flattened disk completely covered with hairs radiating from the center of the sides. This gives the seeds a very characteristic sheen. The seeds are very hard, with a dark grey horny endo sperm where the small embryo is housed that give off no odour but possess a very bitter taste. The plant is native to southeast Asia and Australia normally in tropical and subtropical areas.