The Poison Garden of Alnwick Castle

The only way into the noxious nursery is through gates emblazoned with skulls, crossbones, and a warning: “These plants will kill you.”

It’s just a small portion of the 42-acre gardens at Alnwick Castle in Alnwick, Northumberland, England—but it packs a big punch. 

From ricin and strychnine to coca (used to make cocaine), the Poison Garden is full of things people shouldn’t even smell, let alone touch or eat. And they’re deadly serious about the warnings: Guests have fainted from inhaling fumes as they merely walked through the garden. 

Many of the plants, such as the ricin, are grown in cages, to keep curious guests from getting too close. Most of the flora grown inside the gates required special government permission to grow.

The Poison Garden is the brainchild of Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland, whose husband encouraged her to renovate the gardens when they moved into the castle in 1996. She was inspired, in part, by the Medici poison garden in Padua, Italy.

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