Scary Times in the Garden

Posted by & filed under Natural Areas, Perennials, Shrubs, Trees.

Dandy as a ghostHalloween is less than a week away and quite a few plants are ready.  Let’s go on a whirlwind tour of the Garden and finds some scary plants.

First there are the plants that have creepy names – or at least evoke a creepy feeling.
Spiderwort – This spring bloomer has pretty little flowers and long grassy leaves that look like spider’s legs.  Don’t walk too close or perhaps they will reach out and grab your ankles!
Toad Lily – this fall blooming flower with splotchy coloring is really more unusual than scary.  I dare you to give it a kiss to see if you get a prince.
Skullcap – This plant has delicate little spring blooming flowers with a little hood.  What sort of scary personality is that hood hiding?  
Bugbane – This plant also goes by the scary name, black snakeroot.  The optimist will tell you that it is an insect repellant, but I think those tall spiky flowers indicate a more sinister purpose in life.  Did you know it was the host plant for that ferocious butterfly, the Appalachian Azure?
Widow's TearsWidow’s tears – Morticia Addams would like this little groundcover.  While the flowers look like the spiderwort, the broader leaves are blotched with dark spots – from a crying widow perhaps?  
Bloodroot – a spring blooming ephemeral that is not around this time of year.  Since it is hiding right now, what sort of no good is it up to?
Ghost Plant – Nature lovers will call this weird little plant the Indian Pipe.  Personally, I don’t trust a plant that has no chlorophyll.  Do you?
Strangler Fig – First of all this plant is a parasite.  It survives by sending long creepy tendrils up and down an uWitchhazel leavesnsuspecting host plant.  Eventually it will squeeze the life out of its victims.  What a great friend to have around . . . and around and around your stem.
Witch-hazel – Trouble is brewing when these winter blooming shrubs get together.  Macbeth only had to worry about three witches, we have dozens throughout the Garden.

Other plants have nice sounding names, but can be quietly dangerous.
Hardy Orange – This shrub has a nice name and pretty little orange fruit right now.  But reach in to pick it off the bush and get stabbed by vicious thorns.  This guy’s sense of humor is as twisted as his wretchedly contorted branches.
Oleander – Pretty summer blooms don’t warn you that this plant is quite poisonous.  A beautiful plant for a shrub border, but keep it away from small children and pets.
Azalea and Rhododendrons – All parts of these well known shrubs are poisonous.   
Red Buckeyes – The beautiful nuts of this tree are not for consumption, unless you have an urge to feel very sick.
Devil's Walking StickFoxglove – this spring bloomer has gorgeous spikes of colorful flowers.  But it also contains digitalin – a useful drug for people with heart conditions, but dangerous and even deadly if consumed at the wrong quantity.  Perhaps that is why another common name is Dead Man’s Bells.  

Finally, there are plants that are dangerous and are not afraid to let you know about it with their name.
Wolfsbane – Sometimes it will try and go by the name Monkshood, to seem a little safer, but this pretty blue plant can be deadly if consumed.  There is a reason wolves stay away from this plant.
Angel’s Trumpet – This sounds nice enough until you stop and think about it.  If you eat any part of this plant, especially the leaves or seeds, you will be sitting in on a heavenly jam session with some other angels.  Of course all this presumes that you have been good.
Devil's Walking Stick - stemDevil’s Walking Stick – This plant is very pretty right now as the leaves start to turn a delightful yellow.  Next to a dark green magnolia, it looks divine.  But if you want to take a hike with this tempting stick in your hand, you better have some extra thick gloves to protect yourself from the nasty thorns.    
Poison IvyPoison Ivy – Everyone knows “leaves of three, leave it be.”  But don’t be so rash in judging this plant.  The fall foliage is beautiful.  Just admire it from a distance and don’t touch it.

Of course the most dangerous plant is the dandelion.  Gardeners may mow us down, but we return every time.  Spooky and ghostly?  Perhaps, but I also think the zombies might be a little jealous of our skills.

All of these plants are haunting our Garden.  They can be found all over, but the Matson Garden and the Enchanted Forrest are particularly scary right now.  Take a walk – if you dare.