Step into the Alnwick Garden, and you'll be greeted with a strange sight: a pair of massive iron gates, marked with a skull and crossbones and a stark warning: "These Plants Can Kill." It's not just for decoration, either. This special section is truly the world's most dangerous garden. Behind those gates, you'll find over a hundred different poisonous plants, some of which can end life with a taste, a touch, or even a sniff. Even though there are other poisonous gardens in the world, the impressive variety represented in the Alnwick poison garden makes it the most toxic garden ever... and you can visit if you dare.
Although tours are limited and safety instructions are clear, visitors have felt how just how poisonous this section of the Alnwick Garden can be. People have fainted after breathing in too deeply, and certain plants are so dangerous that they are kept in cages to avoid an accidental touch. But it remains a popular destination, especially with children. In fact, the garden was designed by the Duchess of Northumberland partially with educating youngsters in mind.
Curious about how plants kill and how it feels to die after being dosed by their toxins? This beautiful but deadly garden should be your dream destination. Of course, the hope is that you won't wind up finding out about the flora's fatal effects first-hand.
The Duchess Of Northumberland Made Sure Her Garden Was Toxic
Life changed unexpectedly for Jane Percy in 1995. Her brother-in-law was the Duke of Northumberland, but he passed suddenly - making Jane's husband the new duke, and herself duchess. As she inspected her new grounds and castle - which was featured in the Harry Potter films - she discovered an overgrown section of the garden. The duchess decided to restore it, but rather than keep it to herself, she would reopen the newly designed grounds for everyone to enjoy.
While planning the new plot, the duchess found herself fascinated by poisonous plants. She particularly liked the plants that had once been used as medicines, the ones that would either "cure or kill" people. Until the garden opened in 2005, she went out of her way to seek out native and foreign plants with which to fill this particular section.
It's Inspired By A Garden Possibly Planted By The Medici Family
The Alnwick poison garden was inspired by an Italian plot, the Orto Botanico di Padova. This botanical garden is the oldest of its kind in the world and may have been planted by the famed Medici family. A portion of that garden was set aside specifically for poisonous plants; the Medicis were not above dosing their enemies to get ahead.
Upon visiting this garden, the Duchess of Northumberland instantly knew she needed a poisonous retreat of her own.
It Used To Be A Vegetable Garden
Alnwick Garden only became poisonous in recent years. The area was originally landscaped in 1750, under the direction of the first duke of the region. The land has been passed down through the generations since.
By the mid-1990s, the garden had gone through many changes. Until WWII, it was mostly an Italian-style ornamental garden, but as a show of solidarity with the country, it was transformed into a victory garden. These plots of vegetables and edible plants were created especially to aid in the war efforts. But by 1950, the gardens were closed and had fallen into a state of disrepair.
It Was Created To Educate Children
As morbid as it may seem, the duchess created this garden specifically to educate children. The Alnwick Garden as a whole contains tree houses, fountains, and play areas for kids, and she didn't want the poison section to be any less entertaining.
In her mind, presenting killer plants would get children to engage with history and science:
I thought, 'This is a way to interest children'... Children don’t care that aspirin comes from a bark of a tree. What’s really interesting is to know how a plant kills you, and how the patient dies, and what you feel like before you die.