pro landscaper magazine
pro landscaper magazine

5 pretty poisonous plants

by | 30 Oct 23 | Garden Design, Opinion

With the upcoming night of fright quickly approaching across the UK, supermarkets, high street stores and homeware shops have been filling up with decorations, costumes, and pumpkins galore! Despite Halloween being a trend that never truly seemed to take off in our part of the world, it would appear that there is far more to fear from the Great British landscapes than you may think. 

Lethal laburnum.

Whilst you may think to look for your spooky planting pallet in a selection of witch hazel, bat flowers, and dead man’s fingers, there are actually a series of species that may already inhabit the landscape and despite their innocent charms, have a much more horrific fate. 

Displaying over 100 different varieties of deadly plants is the Poison Garden in Alnwick, kept behind black iron gates and only accessible with a guided tour. Visitors are prohibited from touching, smelling, or tasting anything grown within the garden walls. 

However, most of the fatal foliage can just as easily be found on your doorstep, during your country walks or even in your client’s garden.  

But just how dangerous are they? 

The laburnum tree is the second most poisonous tree in the UK and is incredibly popular across domestic gardens due to its stunning yellow blossoms that appear in the late spring and early summer.  

Ruthless rhododendrons.

Containing a poison called cytisine, according to the gardeners at Alnwick, if a branch were to fall from the tree and a dog were to come along and collect this branch on its walk, it would be unlikely that that dog would survive long enough to make it home again that day.  

 Rhododendrons are a popular choice for many and a common find but contain a poison within the leaves – grayanotoxin – that will attack the central nervous system and has evolved with the ability to even poison the soil it grows within to ensure that nothing else can survive. Rhododendrons will kill its neighbours and invade the surrounding spaces. 

 Prunus laurocerasus – do not eat, touch, or smell.  

What appears as a standard hedging with big, dark green leaves, has a natural defence system to prevent animals and birds from feeding and inhabiting within. Creating a cyanide gas when provoked, the act of trimming this hedge replicates an ‘attack’. According to the gardeners at Alnwick, in a big, open, outdoor space, it’s unlikely you’ll be affected. But in a car, when you’re driving those trimmings to your local disposal centre, you’re then confined in a small space with cyanide gas. A plant with a thirst for revenge.  

Creepy Christmas rose.

 With the Christmas rose, extreme precaution is required. The root contains a cardio toxin called helleborine that has the ability to slow down and stop your heart.

Petrifying periwinkle

Combined with the plant’s sap which produces a chemically induced skin irritation, this is one to avoid at all costs. Hazmat suits, facemasks, and gloves are clearly essential to all gardeners within Alnwick. 

 Famously known for its relevance to the wedding poem, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” vinca major, also known as periwinkle, has beautiful, blue flowers. Originally presented to a bride on her wedding day, formed as a garter to be worn and promoting fertility, the reality of periwinkle is much more horrific. If eaten, periwinkle will disrupt blood pressure, causing heart arrhythmia and stopping the production of white blood cells leading to an inevitable death.  

 Easy to cultivate, most of which found growing wildly across British landscapes, and all with a delicate and appealing aesthetic – put the horror movies aside this Halloween and see what terrors you have lurking in your soils. 

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