top of page

Wicked Plants - The Sordid Lives of Plants Behaving Badly

By: Alice Marty, Mobile County Master Gardener |

As you wander through your lovely lawn and garden, have you ever considered the

possibility you are surrounded by wickedness and death? What a crazy idea! All that beauty is only peaceful and even joyous. “Not so!” says best-selling author Amy Stewart. Her book entitled “Wicked Plants or The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities,” is sure to convince you that danger is all around.

Amy N. Stewart is an American author best known for books on horticulture and the natural world. She is a New York Times bestselling author of ten books, including “The Drunken Botanist” and “Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers.”

In “Wicked Plants,” Amy introduces you to botanical crime families, and shares the story of botanicals that can be found in her poison garden. Some of the most prestigious gardens of the world include poison gardens, and they are exceedingly popular focal points.

Alnwick Garden is one of north England's most beautiful attractions, where acres of colorful plants invite visitors to wander through rows of fragrant roses, manicured topiaries, and cascading fountains. But within Alnwick's boundaries, kept behind black iron gates, is a place where visitors are explicitly told not to stop and smell the flowers: The Poison Garden, home to 100 infamous killers.

Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this collection of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, enlighten and alarm even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers. Common and botanical names, habit and native areas are included along with some of their relatives.

For instance:

The Solanaceae, or nightshades, are a family of flowering plants that ranges from annual and perennial herbs to vines, lianas, epiphytes, shrubs and trees, and includes several agricultural crops, medicinal plants, spices, weeds and ornamentals. Many members of the family contain potent alkaloids, and some are highly toxic, but many—including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell and chili peppers—are used as food.

With chapters titled Arrow Poisons, Deadly Dinner, Fatal Fungus, and This Houseplant Could Be Your Last, the book is a perfect read just before Halloween. Search within its pages for answers to these and other questions:

What may have been the cause of the Salem witch trials?

What weed killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother? (Hint page 219)

Want to make up some real witches’ brew?

Happy Halloween, Gardeners!

For Your Calendar:

NOW: Mobile Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Sale

Shop in-person: Fri 10/23 (9 am-4 pm) and Sat 10/24 (9 am-Noon)

Where: 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile 36608

For More Info:

What: Charles Wood Japanese Garden (walking trail #1)

When: Daylight hours, no fee

Where: 700 Forest Hill Drive, Mobile 36608

What: Mobile Botanical Gardens

When: Wed-Friday, 9 am – 4 pm by appointment

Where: 5151 Museum Drive, Mobile 36608

For More Info:

41 views0 comments


bottom of page