The Poison Path and Fatal Fronds

While I was in England, M. was Web-searching and turned up the Duchess of Northumberland’s “poison garden,” which I would like to see today. Part of a much larger garden complex that is under construction but still attracting busloads of garden-loving Brits, it has gotten a lot of press.

In a recent article, The Guardian, <sarcasm > official organ of the nanny state </sarcasm>, gets hyperbolic about the terribly dangerous plants. Protect the children! Fence off the catnip!

“Evil-looking flowers,” Caroline? Imagine a potato flower. Imagine it pale yellow with dark brown veins. OK? A plant can be a traditional entheogen without being “evil-looking.” Ah well, she has to promote the product.

Of course, people visit exhibition gardens to get ideas. If, for instance, the duchess gets official approval to grow coca (and being a young, media-savvy duchess she might well get it), others might well think, “I could plant some of that between the rhododendrons.”

LEFT: “Evil-looking” henbane blossom.

Who knows what else adventurous British gardeners might be tempted to try growing.

I have long assumed that some very discreet growers in mild North American climates have brought Mama Coca north of the Mexican border. How useful for that long hike in the Sierra Nevada! Unlike refined cocaine, the natural plant has been used for centuries, it has nutritional value, etc.–all this is in the writing of ethnobotanists like the late Richard Schultes or Wade Davis.

(I owe the phrase “poison path” to Dale Pendell.)