The Poison Garden… Enter if You Dare!

Have you ever heard of the poison garden? I thought I would share this spooky garden since Halloween is just around the corner. It is located within the formal gardens of Alnwick Garden which is located in Northumberland, England.  Of course the garden is in England… they seem to have a garden for everything over there!

entrance to the Poison Garden, pic from Smithsonian

The formal garden was founded in 1750, but the poison garden was added in February 2005.  The Duchess of Northumberland was inspired by a trip to Italy after visiting the Medici poison garden.  The Medicis had their own poison garden which they grew plants used to poison their enemies! 

Don’t touch the plants in the cages… the parts of the blooming yellow laburnum tree can cause somnolence, vomiting, and coma! picture from Smithsonian

The Duchess thought that this garden would be interesting to children… she said children “don’t care that aspirin comes from tree bark, but they would be interesting to know how a plant kills you”. She thought it was a way to educate children without having them realize they are being educated. I agree, I’m totally into this garden and I’m not a kid. (Although I AM a geeky nerd… with a degree in biochemistry!)

This plant produces castor oil, but did you know it also contains the deadly toxin, ricin? picture from Smithsonian

So, she started collecting poisonous plants for her garden.  The requirement for the plants is that they must be poisonous and have a good story to tell.

The angel trump flower, in everyone’s backyards, right? Don’t eat the pollen… you will start hallucinating!

Since this is a poison garden, all visitors are prohibited from touching or smelling the plants! Definitely do not stop and smell the roses in this garden! 

Monkshood… used to poison villages by putting the roots in the water supply!
Source: Smithsonian Mag

Let’s look at some other plants…
Wolfsbane… famous from Harry Potter. If eaten, it causes severe GI upset, but its effect on the heart causes your heart to slow down.  However, it’s distinctive taste will likely keep you from eating too much!

source: the poison garden

 Atropa Belladona, aka, deadly nightshade! It contains hyoscine, hyoscyamine, and atropine! Say what? If eaten, it causes dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, drowsiness, hallucinations, delirium, elevated heart rate, coma, seizures, and death! A study in 1996 found this plant has caused more serious incidents than any other plant.

source: the poison garden

Why do people die from this plant? Because of the berries! Look how plump they are! Don’t they look delicious? As a bonus, the berries taste kind of sweet too! So you keep eating them!

source: the poison garden

One of my favorites below… Foxglove! This plant’s name in Latin is Digitalis. Heard of that before? It is the plant used to make the medicine digoxin, which has saved thousands of people since it was first created.  The problem with this plant though, is it will only save your life IF you need it for certain heart conditions…. otherwise it will cause slowing of the heart rate and heart attack!

Digitalis, source: the poison garden

One last look at a common plant, the laurel shrub (cherry laurel, English laurel, laurel)! The leaves contain… cyanide! Yes, it’s true! Don’t munch on these leaves or death will be on its way!  The cyanide will cause your oxygen to go low and eventually headache, confusion, and coma! Don’t get  these confused with bay leaves that are used for cooking… bay leaves are also a type of laurel bush!

the cherry laurel, source: the poison garden

While all of these plants are organic, do not let them term “organic” fool you! You see, even cyanide is organic! Buying organic this and organic that in the store is all a marketing ploy and an improper use of the term organic. They should really use pesticide-free or other terms. 

Not all of Alnwick Garden in England contains poisonous plants, if you visit there are other pretty parts of the garden…

Sources: Poison Garden, Smithsonian Mag

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  1. October 21, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    What a good post. Very educational. Thanks!

    • October 21, 2015 / 6:45 pm

      I am glad you liked it!

  2. October 22, 2015 / 7:18 pm

    Oh, my! I'm never going to look at flowers the same way again. Thank you so much for sharing with us at Thursday Favorite Things blog hop.

    • October 23, 2015 / 6:14 pm

      Apparently nightshade grows around our house here but my husband and dad pick it so I never see it!

  3. October 23, 2015 / 1:59 pm

    Wow this is really interesting! I knew about the monkshood plant and the angel trumpet but I didn't know all the other details.

    • October 23, 2015 / 6:15 pm

      I knew about the foxglove plant, nightshade, and wolfsbane (due to Harry Potter)! There are a lot more plants they have in the garden but I didn't want to write a novel!

    • October 24, 2015 / 10:15 pm

      I wouldn't have thought of such a thing!