There's no question about it: When it comes to toxic plants, the Poison Garden at Alnwick may very well be the most dangerous place on earth. With more than 100 species of plants that can significantly harm a human (or worse) just by scent, touch, or taste, this English garden is a hazard for all who enter... Yet Alnwick Castle still allows tours for those who have a morbid curiosity when it comes to all things medicinally potent and deadly.
According to Alnwick's website, 'Visitors are strictly prohibited from smelling, touching, or tasting any plants, although some people still occasionally faint from inhaling toxic fumes while walking in the garden.' Obviously, this is not a very comforting thought considering there is any number of plants behind its iron gates which can cause severe damage to the human body. However, there is a dark fascination with a garden that was planted with the intention to go against the grain, and rather than capture the beauty of flora, it was designed to capture the merciless nature of botany. One woman is responsible for the garden and since its creation in 2005, it has been hailed as a garden one enters with trepidation and fear.
The Woman And Her Idea Behind The Poison Garden
When Jane Percy became a duchess in 1995, she inherited Alnwick Castle and its acres of property. Upon close inspection, she found a garden that had fallen from its former glory and was now in complete disarray, forgotten and overgrown. The duchess decided to restore the garden, which had been planted back in 1750 by the first duke to call the castle 'home.' This garden wasn't officially closed until 1950 after having been a Victory Garden among other things during wartime, but the duchess decided it was time for the garden to have a new, intimidating and dangerous purpose: She would make it a poison garden.
Therefore, the quest began for plants that were not easily sought after and could take the life of a man with seemingly no effort at all. Plants came from all over the world to fill this 14-acre death trap, as it would soon be known since some of the plants included couldn't even be smelled without adverse effects. The decision to choose deadly plants over the common medicinal herbs that many would have planted to restore the garden is what has made it so dangerously alluring to many. The duchess had a goal in mind to bring the garden back to 'former apothecary' roots (no pun intended), according to Atlas Obscura. Since its official opening in 2005, the garden has attracted many as the castle itself is a popular destination, however, there is a proper safety protocol to be followed for those who wish to get a glimpse at the world's most poisonous garden.
What Can One Expect To Find In Such A Forbidden Garden?
The garden is not actually forbidden - it's just off-limits to anyone who's not part of a guided tour. Furthermore, the garden is under 24-hour surveillance and some of the plants are so dangerous that they're actually caged. For many of these plants, all it takes is a single touch to cause irritation or a reaction far worse, which means visitors must take plenty of care to avoid getting near anything. However, those who have the opportunity to tour the gardens claim the experience is nothing short of fascinating and educational, as visitors have the chance to learn all about plant toxicity and, surprisingly, the everyday plants we all have that are poisonous.
Of the most dangerous plants included in the garden are hemlock, deadly nightshade, strychnine, and hallucinatory plants such as opium poppies, magic mushrooms, cannabis, and tobacco. Visitors have said there's a surprise around every corner and the layout of every castle garden - not just the Poison Garden - is nothing short of spectacular. It's hard to believe that among such beauty lie plants that are just sitting in wait, which is why the castle grounds have been put into expert hands when it comes to containing, caring for, and ensuring the safety of both the plants and the people walking around them. The plants themselves required permission from the government in order to grow on castle grounds, making Alnwick one of the most unique places in the world for lovers of all things botany. Other attractions on the grounds include the castle itself (which was seen in some scenes of the famous Harry Potter movies), as well as a bamboo labyrinth.