Tag Archives: Toxic Plants

A Plant Deer Will Not Damage

Ricinus communis, Castor Bean Plant.

Ricinus communis, Castor Bean Plant.

As a follow up to my previous post on Datura stramonium, here is another beauty I grew this past summer.  Hard to believe that this plant is the product of one bean seed.  I sowed the seeds directly in the ground early June.  (I tried much earlier, in May, but they went to waste, as the ground has to be fairly warm for the seeds to germinate)  Castor Bean thrives in a sunny location and well drained soil.  Plants grew to six feet tall by August, each leaf easily 18 to 20 inches across.  Sadly, I had to pull them to make room for my blueberry patch which I planted in early September.

Every part of this plant is toxic, but the seeds are deadly.  They contain ricin and just one seed is enough to kill a horse.  Fortunately for us in the North, our season is not long enough for the seed pods to mature on the plant and broadcast seeds like it does in the South or in its native South Africa, care should be taken if storing seeds to keep them clearly labeled and in a secure place.

I loved this plant in my garden, in full sun it provides an interesting specimen or as a group it can create a good screen in areas where deer are a problem and you want to restrict deer traffic without damage.  As an annual, I find  it to be a great filler in an immature  border while newly planted trees and shrubs fill in.

I saved seeds from the largest plants so if you want to experiment and want some let me know.

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.
David Hobson

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Striking and Deer Proof

Datura1

A friend shared a  few seeds of Datura stramonium, also known as Angel’s Trumpet and yes, Devils Trumpet and Jimsonweed.  I planted a few in front of the vegetable garden in May.  This photo was taken in August.   In three months,  in the right conditions, it became a respectable three foot by six around plant. I was charmed by the large openly serrated grayish leaves and the magnificent abundant flowers 5-6 inches across.  It will reseed each year if you don’t remove the seed pods as they form.

Deer will not touch this plant. The main reason is its strong odor and foul taste.  It is also a highly toxic plant, in small quantities, this plant is said to have hallucinogenic properties.  As striking and beautiful as this plant is however, considering its high toxicity, even in the face of the unlikelihood of a person ingesting  any part of the plant, if you have small children I would not plant it in the property.  I came across this anecdote in the Cornell site of Agricultural sciences under plants that are poisonous to livestock:

Jimsonweed – Jamestown Story

Captain John Smith, founder of Jamestown

In 1676, British soldiers were sent to stop the Rebellion of Bacon. Jamestown weed (Jimsonweed) was boiled for inclusion in a salad, which the soldiers readily ate. The hallucinogenic properties of jimsonweed took affect.

As told by Robert Beverly in The History and Present State of Virginia (1705): The soldiers presented “a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow up a feather in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting up in a corner like a monkey, grinning and making mows at them; a fourth would fondly kiss and paw his companions, and sneer in their faces with a countenance more antic than any in a Dutch droll.

“In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves – though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. Indeed they were not very cleanly; for they would have wallowed in their own excrements, if they had not been prevented. A thousand such simple tricks they played, and after 11 days returned themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed.”

Well, I am not willing to try it!  But like the saying goes, “The right plant in the right place”  If you have a problem spot with adequate sun, deer problems, and no small children around, this annual will fill the void and remain undisturbed all summer.  Do you have a favorite deer resistant plant?  To find out about more plants follow my links bellow.