Poison Gardens

Edymnion(7a)January 21, 2013

For a couple years now I've had the itch to plant a poison garden. I remember reading where someone else had grown one with little tombstones as markers that named the plant and had what kind of death it caused when consumed, and the idea has just stuck with me.

Has anyone else tried this? Hemlock, Nightshade, Monkshood, Castor beans, maybe even an Oleander bush?

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

There are poison gardens around. I know Cornell Plantations has one. There's one in the Alnwick Garden with which the link below is loosely connected to. There are others. Google could probably get you more. Check the info on the gardens and you'll probably get some plant lists. You'll probably love Amy Stewart's "Wicked Plants" book as well. Saw her speak about the book/plants featured. Fun stuff.

As far as poisonous plants, they abound in many ornamental gardens - monkshood, lily of the valley, foxglove, and more. Many medicinal herbs are toxic as well. So, if you are asking if anyone is growing poisonous plants? Yes. Many of us are.

FataMorgana

Here is a link that might be useful: Poison Garden Website

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Edymnion(7a)

I don't mean "have you grown something that is poisonous", I mean "Have you intentionally grown things for the sole purpose of their poisonous natures"?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 12:45PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Certainly. For example, I added monkshood (aka wolfsbane) just because it was such a notorious plant, but I was very careful in my placement of it. It is no where near where I have any herbs I harvest from - actually it is in a completely separate garden where I harvest nothing from ever. If you intend on planting many of the dangerous plants, I would segregate them away from anything you ever intend to harvest and use.

My own herb focus is largely on medicinal plants, especially those native to North America. Some plants I know to be toxic but few are as notorious as the Old World plants generally featured in poison gardens and mentioned in your original post.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 9:01PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Excellent. I've got deadly nightshade seeds on their way in now, and I've got an open order for purple monkshood plants open that should ship around March (not enough time left really to stratify them for this year).

I'll have to look up exactly what you need to do with the wolfsbane to prepare it for old fashioned arrow poison. I presume its just render the root down into a paste and smear it on the arrowhead though.

Hmmm... although I suppose I should look up on how much of a threat secondary poisoning from wolfsbane is.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 11:45PM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

Sigh. It seems to be up to me to ask - Um, WHY?

I can understand how you'd have poisonous plants in a general herb garden collection (yes, kept separate from the edibles), but I don't understand why you want a specifically poisonous plant collection - or to make arrow poison.

Please take care that children or pets don't have access to these plants! I also suggest a very visible safety warning for visitors. You might otherwise find yourself in the unenviable position of being liable for litigation!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Edymnion(7a)

I live out in the middle of nowhere, in the woods, a quarter mile off the nearest paved road. There are posted no trespassing signs long before you can even see the house.

If anyone or anything is poking around in my garden, they deserve what they get.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 4:01PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Okay, so far I'm looking at:

Wolfsbane
Deadly Nightshade
Castor Beans
Doll's Eyes

And holy crap, I would want to grow Doll's Eyes even if they weren't poisonous. That is just a FREAKY looking plant!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 3:55PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Doll's eyes are a fascinating plant and they need a Eastern woodland like setting to do best. They are a full shade plant at the very least.

FataMorgana

White Baneberry (aka Doll's Eyes)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:32AM
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Edymnion(7a)

Well, good thing I happen to be in Eastern Tennessee out in the middle of the woods. =)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 1:51PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Very good. I just thought I would mention it since I know castor loves full sun and so the baneberry and it wouldn't make good garden chums.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Yeah, I intend to container grow most of these. The castor beans I think will be okay to share garden space with the edibles, but I'm definitely not letting the rest near the stuff I do intend to eat. To quote the old joke, "I'm crazy, not stupid."

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 9:31AM
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wally_1936(8b)

I know my caster bean plants grow in partial shade all the time some get morning light and others late afternoon sun. I will end up cutting down a few as the seeds explode and my lawn ends up being one more place they want to grow.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 11:31AM
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Edymnion(7a)

While we're on the topic of the castor specifically, does anyone know if the red castor plant's beans are any more or less toxic than the standard green ones?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:47AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I would think not though I don't know for sure.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 10:30AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Edymnion, I also share your fascination for deadly plants. If I had the space I would also love to make some sort of garden devoted to poisonous plants, particularly those with some interesting folklore/notoriety behind them.

I came across this interesting site some time ago you may enjoy: The Poison Garden.
It lists a number of deadly plants A-Z, and also talks about history, uses, folklore, and also known accidental and intentional poisonings for each.

For every "why" there is a "why not" out there. Cuz' plants with a certain reputation are so intriguing would be my answer ;-D As I said before, it's a policy of mine not to go around munching on unknown plants. LOL. Hopefully the general public feels the same...

I think it would be far more likely for someone to harm themsleves taking "safe" herbal remedies they haven't done reasearch on than from clearly ornamental plants in someone elses garden. Just a thought anyhoo! ;-)
CMK

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 3:28PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Although I'm sure I'm on some kind of FBI watch list by now. Buying nightshade, castor beans, dolls eyes, etc online, and the other day I found myself on a page with instructions on how to turn castor beans into refined ricin toxin.

Not exactly what I meant to find (and God help anyone stupid enough to do it, you follow those directions and you get a fine powder, and I know from grinding dried bhut jolokia and trinidad scorpion peppers, there is no way to grind stuff without getting a snoot full of it, which would be very bad when dealing with a lethal toxin!), but I'm sure it got ticked away in a file somewhere.

"Yup, he bought castor beans. His internet logs show he was reading up on how to grow them, and how to refine them into a weapon's grade poison. Bring him in!"

To any officers of the law reading this in the future, I swear I'm not a terrorist!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 4:11PM
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kaliaman

check out the poisoner's apothecary on facebook

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 11:14AM
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Edymnion(7a)

I've got the more traditional dark purple monkshood/wolfsbane on order, but I found this on ebay last night. Last one they had left, so I had to get it.

Its a hybrid aconitum. Very pretty, very poisonous.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:24PM
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bardamu_gw

As one chemist reminded me: everything is toxic in the right quantity.

Interesting thread. I admit I was a little bit charmed by the striking color, the history, and the vague dangers of the Bittersweet Nightshade after I noticed one in full bloom growing on a rocky beach.

Then, the following summer, I saw them everywhere on the outskirts of wild grasses and forests though not with as many purple and yellow flowers.

Around the same time I started noticing Datura flowers and other interesting wild flowers growing on the side of the DC train tracks going toward Union Station (a paved bike track). Absolutely stunning in the summer.

Another toxic poisonous plant I am fascinated with because of stories is the mandrake. Apparently it takes time and patience to grow them.

I don't grow toxic plants because I have little kids and resigned myself with the reason that it's not worth the risk. But the more I learn about them, the more easily I can spot some in the wild in the summer time.

I grow non-toxic plants Valerian and Wormwood for no other reason than because, just like with some toxic plants, I enjoy their place in history. Still, I'd rather sit near a patch of flowering cilantro after the summer sun goes down most of all-- the scent is intoxicating but in a good way.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 12:14AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Bittersweet nightshade is a stunning plant. Clusters of star-shaped purple blooms with yellow stamens followed by bright red berries. If it wasn't a "weed," people would buy it as an ornamental vine.

When my children were small, it was this plant I taught them plant safety with. The brilliant red berries made it obvious and it grew abundantly every where. I even left a few plants near to where we would be so we could talk about it often. I couldn't always be with them and toxic plants abound so I needed to teach them how to be safe. This plant was the perfect teacher.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:01AM
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Edymnion(7a)

Ah, the first castor bean has sprouted. This is a huge sprout, and its not even fully out of the dirt yet.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 4:07PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Fatamorgana - what is the plant wally-1936 posted a photo of back in February? It doesn't look like the Castor bean I know (Ricinus communis)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 7:12PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I don't know. I assumed it was a perhaps a castor variety I didn't know from what Wally was saying, but I agree. It doesn't look like any castors I've ever seen. Looks like a tropical/warm weather plant - yeah, there's a look to that! ;)

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 8:17AM
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greenman62

some of these plants are real interesting.
i run into them reading up on medicinals.
LOTS of medicinals can be poisonous if taken in the wrong amounts

Datura
Henbane
morning glory
Conium (aka Hemlock)
Belladonna
Angel Trumpet: Brugmansia

Oleander: Nerium oleander

Most violently toxic plant in North America
Western Water Hemlock: Cicuta douglasii

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:50PM
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bardamu_gw

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) has an interesting history and all parts of the plant are toxic even in small doses. Yet it is so familiar.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 10:25PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Nice photo!

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 8:11AM
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Edymnion(7a)

Ha ha, my wolfbane root came in today, so got that potted up.

The nightshade sprouts are still just sitting there. Must take after peppers, takes forever to actually get going.

Still no love from the Doll's Eyes though.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 9:17PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Not getting any sprouts from my doll's eyes. Seller said they were pre-stratified, so not sure what the issue is.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 3:10PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Wildflowers can be notoriously slow and difficult. Doll's eyes take 2 years to germinate according to what I've read. Prairie Moon has good germination info - see link.

FataMorgana

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 5:32PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Yikes. Oh well, I found a place that sells mature roots on the cheap (dozen roots for $7.50). Bought those, the seeds just aren't worth it.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 12:05PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Seeds can be a very economical way and sometimes the only way to get plants. My wintersown maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides) is coming up amazingly well at the moment. Never saw this plant for sale. ;)

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Edymnion(7a)

Just as a warning to anyone else dumb enough to try starting a poison garden. They aren't kidding about how toxic wolfsbane root is.

I got my roots in last Thursday. Made sure to wear gloves, wash my hands, etc. What I didn't think about was my watch. Apparently some of the water from the roots splashed onto my arm and got underneath my watch.

By Friday morning I had a rash. By Sunday it looked like I had a cold sore/fever blister covering half of my wrist the exact size and shape and position as my watch.

Its been a week now and its mostly healed, but day-um. I didn't break the root, or do anything but wash the things and stick them in dirt, and they did this?

A normal person would consider this a warning and stop. Good thing I'm not normal. =D

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 11:01PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

They are extremely poisonous after all!

I suppose we all have our lessons to learn. I got pretty sick feeling after harvesting dogbane root a while back - I loathe using gloves but learned my lesson with this toxic one. One burned twice learned! :)

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:58PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Hang around the various GW forums long enough and you'll see many parents and grandparents get upset when they learn of poisonous plants in their lawns and gardens. They want to go on a "search-and-destroy" mission. Well....given this thread topic of poison gardens and this reoccurring theme, you might like the newest article on my blog. See the link below.

FataMorgana

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Green Neighbors - The Teaching Plant

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 8:18PM
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galiana(5a NH)

Here's one that nobody has mentioned: wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens).

It isn't as acutely poisonous as most of the plants mentioned here, but as little as a teaspoon of the essential oil is enough to kill you. It contains salycilates (as willow bark does -- the constituents of aspirin), and overdosing on salycilates is a pretty horrible way to die.

Additionally, it gives lovely winter interest, as it is green year-round. It also makes a nice tea -- but obviously don't go drinking gallons of it. :)

    Bookmark   April 26, 2013 at 7:30PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

I've been wondering about wally's unusual plant for some time now....

Think I came up with a correct ID.
CMK

Here is a link that might be useful: Jatropha gossypifolia

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 12:02PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

It does look like that! The "bellyache bush"....I bet! The seeds are poisonous and the sap is a skin irritant. Many thanks, CMK!

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 7:57AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Sure thing ;-)

On an interesting side note...another species of Jatropha (curcas) is being used for bio-diesel, from the oil of the bean. Seems to have a number of other uses to according to this site... jatrophacurcasplantations.com
CMK

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 2:46PM
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