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What’s in a Name? Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful: The 2013 Origami Holiday Tree

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Inspired by the new exhibition The Power of Poison, the Origami Holiday Tree this year features a collection of about 800 “wicked, wild, and wonderful” origami models.  Why the name? The paradoxical title of this year’s tree reflects the many roles poison plays in the human imagination, the natural world, and even medicine. 

Origami Tree

AMNH/R. Mickens


Plant toxins and animal venoms have been used in treating conditions ranging from coughs to cancer. Today, doctors are testing the venom of the India monocellate cobra (Naja kaouthia) for use against arthritis. It has been used as a traditional remedy against the ailment for thousands of years. 

Origami

AMNH/R. Mickens


While often associated with snakes, venom is found through out the animal kingdom. To name just a few groups, spiders, ants, and bees all have venom, too, which they use to evade predators or capture food. Primarily delivered by a bite or a sting, not all venom is deadly or even harmful to humans—often we’re just caught in the crossfire. 

Origami

AMNH/R. Mickens


The mysterious capabilities of poisons have fascinated humans for centuries.  In order to summon spirits who reveal the future, the witches in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth brewed a concoction of many well-known toxins including “root of hemlock.” These ghostly apparitions encourage Macbeth to pursue his treacherous climb to power.

Origami Witches

AMNH/R. Mickens


Nicknamed devil’s bread, poisonous hemlock is found in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. If consumed by humans, hemlock is deadly, causing muscular paralysis within hours.

Origami

AMNH/R. Mickens


Learn more about The Power of Poison, and read about the making of the Origami Holiday Tree and origami at the Museum

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