THE POISON GARDEN website Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 


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History of the Poison Garden Website

Just Another Poison Garden

The iconic gates of the Poison Garden

The iconic gates
of the Poison Garden

When the Alnwick Garden decided to have a Poison Garden as one of its attractions, it engaged a consultant to provide a list of poison plants and the basic information about them.

In December 2003, I was a volunteer for the Alnwick Garden and was asked to research the folklore associated with the plants as well as their toxicity.

By the time the Poison Garden opened in February 2005, I had spent hundreds of hours researching the stories of the plants. Initially, the tours of the Poison Garden were conducted by volunteers but, in April 2005, it was realised that the garden was going to be hugely successful and that paid staff would be required. The Duchess of Northumberland invited me to become the Poison Garden Warden with responsibility for training the guides, both staff and volunteers, as well as conducting tours myself.

The Fascination of Poisonous Plants

The huge popularity of the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden clearly demonstrated the public's fascination with poisonous plants and many visitors were interested in learning more than could be included in a short tour.

I put together a number of talks on different aspects these plants and their stories and, in May 2008, left the Alnwick Garden in order to have the freedom to give those talks to any group that wanted one and to set up this website to provide much more of the facts, fiction and folklore associated with these plants.

My approach was, and is, to try and understand the fascination for these potentially dangerous plants but not to sensationalise them.

That last is important because, as the tagline for this site states, every garden is a poison garden. The plants in the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden, with a very few exceptions, can be found in most domestic gardens or in parks and the countryside. We've lived with these plants for a very long time so it is important not to create unnecessary fear about their potential effects.

The Substance Abuse Message

There are many poisonous plants whose effects are on the brain as well as the body and our fascination for those effects is a key part of the story of poison plants and, hence, of this website.

When I began researching plants, in 2003, I was firmly in the 'drugs are bad, just say 'No'' camp, mostly because I'd never given the subject much thought.

The more I looked into the truth about these plants, however, the more I came to realise that the legislative framework supposed to control their use is both irrational and ineffectual.


The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.







A to Z Links

Introduction to the A to Z section
Abrus precatorius, rosary pea
Aconitum lycoctonum, wolfsbane
Aconitum napellus, monkshood
Actaea racemosa, black cohosh
Actaea spicata, baneberry
Aesculus hippocastanum, horse chestnut
Amanita muscaria, fly agaric
Aquilegia atrata, columbine
Aristolochia clematitis, birthwort
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood
Arum italicum, Italian cuckoopint
Arum maculatum, cuckoopint
Aspergillus fumigatus
Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade
Brugmansia suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Bryonia dioica, bryony
Buxus sempervirens, common box
Camellia sinensis, tea
Cannabis sativa, marijuana
Catha edulis, khat
Chelidonium majus, greater celandine
Cimicifuga racemosa, black cohosh
Claviceps purpurea, ergot
Clematis vitalba, old man's beard
Colchicum autumnale, naked ladies
Conium maculatum, poison hemlock
Convallaria majalis, lily of the valley
Cynoglossum officinale, hound’s tongue
Daphne mezereon, spurge olive
Datura stramonium, thorn apple, jimsonweed
Datura suaveolens, angel's trumpet
Delphinium, larkspur
Digitalis spp., foxglove
Dracunculus vulgaris, dragon arum
Echium vulgare, viper’s bugloss
Eranthis hyemalis, winter aconite
Erythroxylum coca, cocaine
Euonymus europaeus, spindle tree
Euphorbia x martinii, red spurge
Euphorbia pulcherrima, poinsettia
Fritillaria spp., fritillary
Galanthus nivalis, snowdrop
Hedera helix, common ivy
Helleborus spp., hellebore
Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed
Hyacinthoides non-scripta, bluebell
Hyoscyamus niger, black henbane
Ilex aquifolium, holly
Jacobaea vulgaris, ragwort
Juniperus communis, common juniper
Laburnum anagyroides, laburnum
Lactuca serriola, prickly lettuce
Leucojum aestivum, snowflake
Lithospermum officinale, gromwell
Lolium temulentum, darnel
Malus 'John Downie', crab apple
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake
Mercurialis perennis, dog’s mercury
Narcissus, daffodil
Nepeta faassenii, catmint
Nerium oleander, oleander
Nicotiana sylvestris, tobacco
Oenanthe crocata, hemlock water dropwort
Papaver somniferum, opium poppy
Pastinaca sativa, parsnip
Polygonatum odoratum, angular Solomon's seal
Prunus laurocerasus, cherry laurel
Pulsatilla vulgaris, pasque flower
Ranunculus acris, meadow buttercup
Rheum x hybridum, rhubarb
Rhododendron spp.
Rhus radicans, poison ivy
Ricinus communis, castor oil plant
Rosmarinus officinalis, rosemary
Rumex obtusifolius, broad-leaved dock
Ruta graveolens, rue
Salix alba, white willow
Salvia divinorum, sage
Scutellaria laterifolia, Virginian skullcap
Senecio jacobaea, ragwort
Solanum dulcamara, woody nightshade
Solanum melongena, aubergine
Strychnos nux-vomica, poison nut
Symphoricarpos albus, snowberry
Symphytum spp., comfrey
Taxus baccata, yew
Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy
Thevetia peruviana, yellow oleander
Urtica dioica, stinging nettle
Veratrum album, white hellebore
Verbascum olympicum, Greek mullein
Vinca major, greater periwinkle
Viscum album, mistletoe
Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree