Gardening may have a somewhat twee reputation, we’ll grant that. Older folk floating around beautiful gardens tending roses with a snip here and a snip there… Butterflies fluttering about in search of pollen; puppies and kittens frolicking with their bunny friends…

We here at the Garden Style Company know there is a much darker side to the world of gardening and horticulture: deadly poisonous plants that can kill.

Oh yes, be under no illusion. There are many species of plant at large in the world that can kill, and kill quickly.

Poison Hemlock
Known to have killed the philosopher, Socrates no less, poison hemlock is a serious contender for the top killer plant. On ingestion, this plant causes severe vomiting, convulsions and paralysis of the central and peripheral nervous system. Death normally occurs thanks to the paralysis of the respiratory system. If that wasn’t quite awful enough, victims remain conscious until death.

Native to the UK, and part of the same family as carrots and fennel, this plant is a tricky thing to spot. What distinguishes it from its almost identical twin Cow Parsley, are the very noticeable purple speckles on its stem and its strong mousy smell.

Deadly Nightshade
You’ve probably heard of Deadly Nightshade – its name alone conjures all sorts of macabre goings on. It’s even got a great Latin name: Atropa Belladonna, which describes its femme fatale qualities.

This plant does grow in the UK – keep your eyes peeled.

Deadly Nightshade really is an exceptionally effective killer. Slow to begin with, minor symptoms start to appear after the first few days. Dry mouth, and thirst are then quickly followed by hallucinations, dilated pupils, difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, racing heart; then finally coma and death. This is all complemented by how attractive its dark purple berries are and their apparently sweet taste.

Nicotiana Sylvestris, Tobacco
This plant kills an estimated five million people every year. When we humans, in our wisdom, first decided to dry the leaves of this plant and smoke them, we could barely have anticipated the extreme damage to millions of people around the world to come. This is the ultimate killer plant.

Tobacco plants don’t grow naturally in the UK so you are unlikely to accidentally stumble across this one.

Although the plant itself does contain nicotine and other toxins, it is not until the plant is either reduced to a pure oil form, or dried and smoked that its toxic effects can be seen. Nicotine poisoning causes loss of motor control, double incontinence, convulsions, and death.

Where to find killer plants
If you want to know more, you can check out killer plants safely by visiting the UK’s only poison plant garden at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland. Here you can find out more from experienced gardeners and get to see these plants up close.

What to do if you meet one
After you’ve run fast in the other direction, we’d be irresponsible if we didn’t tell you to call an ambulance straight away. Should you stumble across one of these plants or if you suspect you might have eaten something you shouldn’t have, seek medical attention immediately.

Our last word of advice? If in doubt, leave it out. If you are not sure what you’re doing when it comes to edible berries and plants, don’t put it in your mouth!