poison garden sign blarney castle

Life in the Poison Garden

While a few people recommended them, I didn't expect the Blarney Castle Gardens to be so diverse and fun to explore. One of my favourite parts was the Poison Garden. This fascinating collection of poisonous plants sits in the shadows of the castle and is intended to be an educational exhibit that informs visitors about the toxic plants that grow around us.

poison garden sign blarney castleThe signs posted in front of each plant provide some interesting information about not only their toxicity, but also the various ways they have been used throughout history. A sign on a wall nearby notes that the site of the garden may have once been used to plant a "physic garden," common in medieval Europe. My mind wandered to the people who once inhabited the castle and what medicinal or culinary horticulture they might have practiced.

castor oil poisonfoxglove poisonousThe stories here range from haunting to macabre to humorous. Many parents accidentally killed their children by using Hellebore as a worm treatment prior to the 18th century. Belladonna was used by Venetian ladies to make themselves more beautiful by causing their pupils to dilate, but it can also cause hallucinations and death. While rhubarb stalks are delicious as a dessert, the leaves are extremely toxic. Some of the plants are so dangerous that even smelling them can cause serious illness. Tales of suicide, addiction and superstition are woven through the narratives.

hellebore poison gardenhenbane poisonousmarijuana blarney castleWe were quite curious about the sign posted under the marijuana information and learned that the garden had been quite comprehensive, at one time including both the marijuana plant as well as a poppy plant. The marijuana plant was seized by the gardai (Irish police) in October 2010. Blarney Castle has applied for a licence but this seems to still be unresolved.

nightshade plantrhubarb leaves poisonousAs I read each sign I noticed plenty of Harry Potter references that I didn't get because I've never read the books. Enthusiasts of the series will, no doubt, enjoy seeing some of the plants mentioned in the stories among the garden's offerings.

tobacco plants poison gardenwolfsbane poison gardenwormwood plant poisonousOther plants that were included but not pictured here are: birthwort, chaste tree, cherry laurel, Common Box, poison hemlock, common juniper, European Mandrake, laburnum anagyroides, oleander, poison ivy/oak, Salvia divinorum, tea, White Helleborene and yew.

Are you surprised that any of these plants were included in the Poison Garden?


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  1. Rose Hilliard 7 October, 2014 at 13:24 Reply

    I’m shocked that they have Cannabis sativa there listed as a poisonous/dangerous plant. It’s well proven that any part of the Cannabis plant has never killed anyone! In fact, smoking it or taking the extract has been proven to cure many cancers, stop epileptic seizures, depression, and PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. How sad that the Irish gardeners would promote the idea that this plant is dangerous and/or poisonous in any respect! A true herbalist would certainly know differently. Google Phoenix Tears.com for the real truth about Cannabis oil extract and what it can do to help people – not poison them.

  2. Josee Laplante 21 May, 2013 at 11:18 Reply

    I absolutely love this article! Gardening and extend knowledge of plants is my thing for so many years now and still I discovered something new! Education is the key; so many common plants can be toxic. Not many knows that a mere tomato plants should actually be in this category: don’t ever eat the other parts of the plant… only RIPE tomatoes! Thanks for the article!

  3. robert feller 5 October, 2011 at 06:57 Reply

    I’m rather concerned with the toxicity of marijuana and why it’s at this place? But more importantly I’m concerned that most of the plants may easily kill a man and marijuana (and poppy) at best will make you just chill out…

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 5 October, 2011 at 10:51

      I wondered why they considered marijuana to be “toxic” as well – because as you point out, the rest of these plants are actually lethal…I even consider tobacco to be worse because of its carcinogenic properties…would be interesting to hear from the curator of the exhibit on this one…

  4. Vwest 4 October, 2011 at 19:40 Reply

    frightening thing is, belladonna is an ingredient in homeopathic teathing medication for babies here in the states…and its sold everywhere….

    • Mike 11 January, 2012 at 18:00

      Because only an idiot would buy into any homeopathic “medication”. It pains me to even type “medication” in the same paragraph as homeopath. Homeopathic medications essentially have absolutely none of the origin active ingredient in them at all. You might as well just be drinking water. It is medical fraud plain and simple.

      Homeopathic belladonna preparations have been sold as treatments for various conditions, although there is no scientific evidence to support their efficacy.[31][32] Clinically and in research trials, the most common preparation is diluted to the 30C level in homeopathic notation. This level of dilution does not contain any of the original plant,[32] although preparations with lesser dilutions which statistically contain trace amounts of the plant are advertised for sale.[33]


  5. Mark Turner 18 September, 2011 at 13:18 Reply

    Not Blarney castle, but the Poison Gardens at Alnwick Castle, in Northumbria. Hence the Harry Potter References. I was there recently, and recognise some of the exibits portrayed here

  6. GRRRL TRAVELER 22 August, 2011 at 06:14 Reply

    Very awesome find! I would’ve never thought there’d be a garden like this and to know that some plants like rhubarb are double-edged (good & dangerous)…I find that fascinating. I’d probably go for this garden more than the stone! ha ha..

  7. suzyguese 7 August, 2011 at 11:50 Reply

    I roamed the grounds of the Blarney Castle, but I must have missed the Poison Garden. It’s kind of crazy they keep all of those plants just out in the open at such a big tourist attraction. Did you kiss the stone?!

    • Geert @ Inspiring Travellers 7 August, 2011 at 07:24

      Haha – of course! You’ll see it when you go to Blarney Castle – it’s just at the bottom of the castle if you go right once you exit the castle past the vendor selling the Blarney kissing photos. Definitely have a peek =)

  8. Bob Crunch 5 August, 2011 at 15:33 Reply

    It sounds like a very fun place to visit. I like how of all the plants that could have been removed in was the marijuana plant.

  9. Lisa 5 August, 2011 at 12:03 Reply

    I was surprised by the Rhubarb plant and the fact that the police had removed the marijuana plant. I’m not surprised that kids need to be supervised, that could get a little scary if they weren’t. It would be a cool place to visit. 

  10. Dalene & Pete Heck 4 August, 2011 at 10:12 Reply

    Very interesting.  The grandma who lives in our Manor here always asks me to taste plants from our garden but I am always a little hesitant because I do not know plants all that well… I never knew that rhubarb leaves were poisonous either.  Yikes!

  11. Kyle 3 August, 2011 at 16:01 Reply

    Did these people realize afterwards that it had been something they’d done with a plant which had accidentally killed their children or did they not know? In that case ignorance is bliss. Killing your own child, that has to be the worst feeling in the world.

  12. Cathy Sweeney 3 August, 2011 at 12:37 Reply

    I was really surprised by the gardens and grounds of Blarney Castle, too. However, I don’t remember the Poison Garden — looks fun,  interesting and a little bit scary!

  13. Jeremy Branham 3 August, 2011 at 10:19 Reply

    Yikes!  This is like seeing a shark or a venomous snake but with plants!  Fascinating to look at and read about but dangerous and scary.  I guess it’s why we like to see things that scare us because they also captivate us.  By NO WAY I would ever take a little kid in this place!

  14. Sherry 3 August, 2011 at 04:00 Reply

    How utterly fascinating! It almost makes me want to take up gardening. I’d love to grow some of these and learn to be like an apothecary. Just for the medical purposes, that’s all. I promise.  Ireland just keeps getting more interesting with every post.

  15. Randy Kalp 2 August, 2011 at 20:06 Reply

    Really interesting post and place! I love the background and historical facts that are given for each plant.

  16. emilyinchile 2 August, 2011 at 11:57 Reply

    This is so cool! I love the idea of a different type of garden (not to mention anything with Harry Potter references). The Getty Villa in LA is a reconstruction of a Roman villa, and they have a recreation of the kind of kitchen garden that Romans would have had – your talk about a physic garden reminded me of that. I also think it’s pretty funny that they tried to get away with a marijuana plant only to have it confiscated.

  17. Jimmy Dormady 2 August, 2011 at 00:55 Reply

    Cool article, interesting. So that’s where now defunct British heavy metal band Wolfsbane got their name from!

  18. silvergryphon 21 May, 2013 at 11:05 Reply

    I’m much like you on avoiding overly hyped books and movies. My husband dragged me kicking and screaming into the Harry Potter movies right after moving in. They are now our go to entertainment when there is nothing on the tube. I now must work on getting all of the books. I would highly recommend you at least try the series to see if you enjoy it.

  19. Lynn 21 May, 2013 at 12:02 Reply

    Try reading the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sourcer’s Stone. If you don’t like it after a chapter or two, fine. You might, like me, find yourself pleasantly surprised. A lot of the plant references come from Harry’s classes, especially potions.

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