Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Spooky Plants October 30, 2008

In honor of Halloween, I offer you a few of the spookier members of the plant kingdom:

Eyeball plant (Spilanthes oleracea)

Native to Brazil, this odd-looking South American medicinal plant (also known as ‘Toothache Plant’) can be grown as an annual or tender perennial elsewhere. Its flowers look like scary bloody red and yellow eyeballs, and ingesting the leaves can cause your tongue to go numb. All in all, the perfect Halloween plant!

Eyeball Plant photo courtesy of Univ. of Wisconsin

Eyeball Plant photo courtesy of Univ. of Wisconsin

Corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum)

I missed the stinky blooming of the University of Washington’s specimen, nicknamed “Waldo,” by about two days this year. Just the flower itself was impressive (and kinda disgusting), but people line up inside the greenhouse for a chance to inhale the distinctive stench that gives this Sumatra, Indonesia native its common name. Somehow, I’m not really that sad to have missed it.

"Waldo" photo courtesy of City of Seattle Parks Dept.

Strangler fig (Ficus aurea)

This native to the Florida Keys and the West Indies is a parasitic plant, beginning its growth when seeds lodge in the bark of its host. It then puts out air roots and lives off nutrients from the host and air. Eventually the roots reach the ground and develop there as well. Also known as the ‘Golden fig,’ if left to its own devices it will often kill off its host. What a bad guest!

Strangler Fig photo by rayb777, Flickr Creative Commons License

Strangler Fig photo by rayb777, Flickr Creative Commons License

Bloodwort (Rumex sanguineus)

Also known as ‘Bloody dock’ for its red-veined leaves, this plant is usually tap-rooted and hard to eradicate once planted. Semi-poisonous if ingested and causes skin irritation if touched. Scared yet?

Bloodwort photo courtesy of Bluestone Perennials

Bloodwort photo courtesy of Bluestone Perennials

Ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora)

Also known as ‘Indian Pipe,’ this member of the blueberry family lacks chlorophyll and therefore thrives in very dark forest conditions. I would love to come upon these growing in the wild sometime, maybe just not at night. For a fascinating look at how this plant gets its energy, click here.

Ghost Plant/Indian Pipe photo by nordique, via Creative Commons

Ghost Plant/Indian Pipe photo by nordique, via Creative Commons

Witch hazel

Scary name, great plant. Mine is all done with its foliage show for the year, but I still have the winter blossoms to look forward to. I’m not including a picture here because I plan to do a post about it later this week. 🙂

Wolf’s bane (Aconitum lyoctonum)

This relative of Monkshood is a perennial native to northern Europe (hm, wonder if it’s found in Transylvania?) bearing yellow or purple flowers in mid- to late summer. All parts of the plant are extremely toxic if ingested, and even the leaves can cause skin irritation if touched. This one is not going in my garden, for sure.

And lastly, I would just like to add, even though its name doesn’t sound at all scary, the howlingly horrible annual weed and #1 scourge of my garden…

Morning glory (bindweed)

I made the very bad mistake of reading Scott Smith’s horror novel, “The Ruins,” and the carnivorous vines in that book come to mind every time I see the twisting strands of this weed attempting to throttle my other plants to death. It really does seem to grow tangibly larger overnight. I just hope it never comes indoors to try and get me as I sleep! There is an actual parasitic “vampire” plant called dodder vine. This link has photos of it “sniffing out” its prey and going to strangle it. Ewwwww!

What are your favorite scary plants, in name, looks or habit?


18 Responses to “Spooky Plants”

  1. Middle Man Says:

    Bindweed aaarrrgghhhh! It is indeed the Devil’s own crop.

    You might enjoy reading this:

  2. Tyra Says:

    Terrific post, this Corpes flower is fantastic/ Happy Halloween LOL Tyra

  3. Becky Says:

    I guess the stinkhorn mushroom is the scariest plant I’ve ever seen. Check it out on Google images at your own risk!

  4. Jen Says:

    Cool! I’d like a bouquet of eyeballs and ghosts today.

  5. Pam Says:

    Kids loved looking at the pictures. I agree the Ruins was an awful book!

  6. Georgia Says:

    Clever posting. The bindweed in my Boston community garden plot was scary. The chicken of the woods mushroom, orange in color, with thick wavy flesh is a good Halloweenesque plant candidate. It’s delicious cooked with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

  7. kristi Says:

    Great assortment of some truly spooky plants, have a great Halloween.

  8. Aerie-el Says:

    How about a ‘spider plant’? Or maybe the real thing-spiders on plants! I’ve got some of those on my blog today, in homage to spookiness. Have a fun Halloween!

  9. […] the costumes, candy and kidlets. Not in the spirit yet? Check out GreenWalks’ post on spooky plants, this great collection of vintage halloween photos on Flickr, or this poor dog’s awesome […]

  10. Racquel Says:

    Spooky plants! The eyeball plant really cracks me up! 😉 Happy Halloween!

  11. Curmudgeon Says:

    What a fun post! That fig is going to give me nightmares!

  12. Megan Says:

    Love that ghost plant, I’ve never seen it.
    I’ve got the bind weed too. I’ll never run out of weeding to do, thanks to it.

  13. greenwalks Says:

    Middle Man –

    Thanks for your first visit here, hope you return. Yeah, bindweed, pure evil!


    Tyra –

    Thanks! The corpse flower is indeed both bizarre and majestic. Hope you had a fun day on Halloween too.


    Becky –

    OK, you’re right, scary! And not just a little bit phallic…


    Jen –

    I give you that bouquet, virtually anyway!


    Pam –

    Glad they liked. Yeah, no more Scott Smith or any horror novels for me!


    Georgia –

    Wow, you are brave to have eaten that mushroom! It does look pretty scary.


    Kristi –

    Thank you, hope you had fun too!


    Aerie-el –

    Enjoyed your spider post, although I had to look at the pictures through my hands (arachnophobe that I am).


    HP –

    Thanks so much for the link!


    Racquel –

    Yeah, if I ever see it in person I’m going to bust a gut. Hope you had a great Halloween!


    Curmudgeon –

    Thank you, but sorry to have sent a bad dream image your way!


    Megan –

    I’ve only seen Ghost Plant/Indian Pipe on that stupid Facebook application, Lil’ Green Patch. I thought it was made up! Death to bindweed!

  14. Kim Says:

    I liked this post! It was fun, and I learned something. I’ve never even heard of Indian Pipe, but I will look for them.

  15. Philip Says:

    I love all the spooky plants you have shown. it has been great fun catching up on your posts.
    Best regards,

  16. Anna Says:

    We have some Indian Pipes growing wild here in the Northeast, I have seen them many of times on my hikes in MA, VT and NH.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    I hate Creeping Charlie, but I digress…

    …bloody dock is actually an edible. You use it like spinach. 🙂

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