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 castle

The 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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Khadijah Noor
5 years ago

loved the article
love learning more about plants

Keith Decker
7 years ago

Marijuana is here because the chemical compounds are technically poison. The side effects may be beneficial and fun, but it is still a reaction by the body to a foreign chemical..

11 years ago

FUN! Great post. I love the signs. 🙂

11 years ago

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…

Reply to  robert feller

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…

11 years ago

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

Reply to  Vwest

How scary! I don’t understand how that can be??

11 years ago

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… Read more »

Reply to  Mike

Thanks for sharing this info, Mike

Thank you for working with Straigh To The Point.
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