Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Pick your poison, literally........

I had the weather channel on in the background the other day because there were a lot of storms cranking up nearby, and I heard them talking about an infamous poisonous garden located in Northumberland, England, and I had to find out more about this fascinating idea of a poisonous garden.

So it turns out that the poisonous garden in Northumberland is not the first of its kind.  The idea of a "deadly garden" was the concept of Catherine de'Medici.  I have blogged about her in other post during out Medieval studies which you can find here.

You may remember her for marrying in to the de Medici family--the "Godfathers of the Renaissance," the family who founded banks.  She was kidnapped when she was 11 years old, and married Henry II, the King of France when she was 14 years old and became Queen.  She was also mother-in-law to Mary Queen of Scots.

Any of that ring a bell?  At any rate, the de' Medici garden had numerous poisonous plants growing, and it is said that Catherine had a private room full of tiny apothecary cabinets fill with a collection of deadly poisons.  Interestingly enough, a lot of people died around Catherine, for reasons unknown.  I wonder what it could have been.  Hmmm.....

In 2005, Duchess Jane Percy of Northumberland decided to create a poisonous garden modeled after that of Catherine de Medici.  The Duchess thought children would be more interested in how plants could kill rather than how plants could heal.  Her exact words were:

'I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill... I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be.' - Duchess of Northumberland

The Poison Garden is located within the Alnwick Garden and has over 100 deadly, intoxicating, and hallucinogenic plants.

It is home to a variety of interesting plants such as Hemlock (which was the poison of choice for executions in Ancient Greece and in fact is said to be what killed philosopher Socrates), Strychnos nux-vomica or strychnine which can cause a human to die within 20 minutes after ingesting and is essentially undetectable, Foxglove or Digitalis can cause tremors, jaundice, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, and even death, Deadly Nightshade or Atropa belladonna (can cause hallucinations, induce comas, unrelenting thirst, and convulsions), and Laburnum which can cause foaming at the mouth, induce comas, sleepiness, vomiting, nausea, spasms, and diarrhea.

With permission from the government, the garden is also home to opium poppies, cannabis, tobacco, wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), and magic mushroom.

They even have a treehouse restaurant that serves local dishes. Fingers crossed they will not be serving up anything grown in their garden.

There are, of course, a few rules if you want to take a tour of the gardens, get married at the gardens (yes this is an option), or hold a conference at the gardens.

Understandably, the garden is also under 24 hour security. You can only be in the garden with a guide.

You are not allowed to touch, smell, or taste the plants (duh for tasting), as there have been several tourist who became ill during their tour of the garden.

You should also hope you are not visiting the garden on a windy day.

You can find out more here at the official website.  I might be adding this to my bucket list.

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