Wicked plants darken Lauritzen Gardens
May 2nd, 2012
Omaha, NE – Lauritzen Gardens is showcasing the darker side of nature with its latest exhibit.
â€œWhen you step inside, it gives the air of being in, like a mad botanistâ€™s greenhouse.â€ Mia Jenkins is the Marketing Director at Lauritzen Gardens. She showed me around the gardensâ€™ latest exhibit, Wicked Plants: Colorful Characters from the Dark Side of the Plant World. Itâ€™s a collection of toxic, hallucinogenic and carnivorous plants and flowers, on display through May 13th.
â€œTheyâ€™re very interesting, and they just kind of give you a new take on the botanical world,â€ Jenkins said. â€œI call them our botanical bad guys.â€
The exhibit is based on the book by author Amy Stewart, Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincolnâ€™s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. And it does include the plant that killed the early Presidentâ€™s mother. Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from â€œmilk sickness,â€ after drinking unpasteurized milk from a cow that had eaten the White Snakeroot plant.
â€œAnd thereâ€™s other plants like Hemlock which killed Socrates, things like castor bean, which is one of the most deadly poisons,â€ she said. â€œRicin comes from castor bean, and thatâ€™s been used with Russian spies, lots of notorious stories from that plant as well.â€
The White Snakeroot is a simple, green plant with pale flowers. Pointing out a collection of more dangerous-looking cacti and succulents, Jenkins noted the prickly plants are ones people instinctively stay away from. But, she said, some of the deadliest plants are deceptively pretty – and commonly found.
â€œLike you have Cyclamen, which is a very common house plant,â€ she said. â€œYou often see it in floral shops and grocery store floral departments, especially around the holidays. They have beautiful flowers but they also produce a substance that can cause nausea and even paralysis.â€
Jenkins emphasized plants are usually only toxic if theyâ€™re ingested, and it typically takes quite a heavy dose to cause damage. But many commonly-found plants can be toxic to pets â€“ which are more inclined to chew on them. And other plants are just plain off-putting to any species. Like the corpse flower.
â€œIt has a smell like rotten flesh… It takes a while for them to bloom but when they do, you really know that theyâ€™re blooming.â€
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