Saturday, February 23, 2013

Poison Plants - A Garden Style?

I read Murder mysteries. And a story I read had a host of suspects who had visited a ‘Poison Garden’.  So I, naturally, had to see what kinds of  poison plants were in this poison garden.  Here are some plants I found for a mystery lovers poison garden.

The bright purple of Monkshood, Aconitum will catch the eye in the garden.  It grows in Zone 5-8, prefer part shade.The tall spires make a late summer appearance in cottage gardens.  All parts of this plant are poisonous. This herbaceous wildflower was used in the past for medicinal purposes up to the mid-20th century.  It was used to slow the pulse, reduce fever, and as a sedative in very diluted quantities.  However the amount of dilution was unsure  and  ingestion of this plant, new leaves, roots, or flowers, can cause death within four hours.
Belladonna, (lower left branches with dark berries) the Atropa belladonna, is often referred to as ‘deadly nightshade’  This perennial can cause dizziness, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting and is deadly.  The alkaloid atropine is that compound  extracted from the roots, that is dangerous, but is used in modern medicine.

Henbane (top right photo) is also in the nightshade family. It has a terrible odor, and like belladonna, is deadly.

Poisonous Hemlock,(Lower right photo) is a herbaceous biennial that like moist woodland areas and even ditches.  Often confused with the wild carrot, Daucus carota, or Queen Ann’s Lace, many poisoning occur when roots are mistaken as parsnips, or anise, and leaves are mistaken as parsley.
Center photo is Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, that many have in the garden.  Parts are poisonous, and can cause slowing of the heartbeat, confusion, and blurred vision.  Overdoses of prescribed medicine made from Digitalis can also be deadly.

angels trumpetThis pretty plant is Angel’s Trumpet, Datura, Brugmansia, has toxic seeds and flowers. Along with henbane, mandrake, and deadly nightshade, this plant has a history of being used by witches. Hallucinations, often violent, are the reaction to ingesting this plant.

Delphinium, also known as Larkspur, is toxic from all portions of the plant,  Burning lips, and throat, and diarrhea and vomiting are signs of ingestions, and paralysis of the respiratory system is fatal.  Delphinium like cool summers in moist, loamy soil. This perennial is hardy to Zones 3-7.  Tall spikes of many shades of blue and white make a great cut flower.
bleeding hearts 1Bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia,  is a lovely perennial that has toxic foliage and roots.  Dogs and cats may find this plant tasty, but can cause gastric inflammations, and difficulty breathing. 
Other ornamental plants that would fit into this garden style, are Wisteria, Lantana, and yews.
Wisteria is a woody climbing vine or shrub with panicles of violet blooms.  The wisteria is in the Fabaceae family, that of the pea and legumes. Pods and seeds of wisteria are poisonous and may cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.  Only if consumed in large quantities, is this plant fatal.
Lantana, a Verbenceae,  a member of verbena family, is only hardy to zones 9-11.  In northern climates we grow lantana as an annual.  The green berries are toxic and children and pets should be protected from this plant. Lantana toxins attack lungs, kidneys and nervous systems and can be fatal.   Used in sunny gardens, lantana is a frequent stopping point of the swallowtail butterfly.

The yew, is a large group of  evergreen plants, but the Taxus group is the poisonous one with flat needles and berries. Most parts of this plant are toxic, including the bark. Birds are attracted to the berries,(the red portion is not toxic), and distribute seeds.

Top left: Coriander, top Right: Cherry Laurel, Bottom Left: Oleander, Bottom right: Yellow Jasmine
Just a few more poison plants that can be dangerous, are Coriander, Cherry Laurel, Oleander, and Yellow Jasmine.

I have fun watching faces as I tell folks about this garden theme, but in all seriousness, use extreme caution with any plants you use in your garden.

What extreme garden themes do you have?


Angie said...

The list of poisonous or toxic plants each of us grow will surprise lots of people I suspect Claudia.
One question I've often come across is about poisonous plants together with pets or children. What a lot of people forget is that our pets/wildlife are a whole lot more clever than we are and more often than not will avoid such plants.
Whilst its nice to have children join us in our garden activity - I believe that they are best encouraged not to put plant parts in their mouth and to always be supervised by an adult when working in the garden.

Claudia Fugate said...

All good points, Angie. thanks for your insights and have a great day. c

Nicholas Weber said...

None of my garden areas have a cool theme like this...yet.

Thanks for the inspiration. Not sure if poisonous plants are my thing, but I do like the concept of themed gardens a lot.