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Top 10 spooky plants that keep us up at night

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It’s that time of year when we’re unnerved by things that go bump in the night. Our list of creepy plants will keep you looking over your shoulder every time you take a crisp fall walk outside.

1. The Weeping Willow | Salix babylonica

While hanging out with local ghosts in the graveyard, you might have noticed silhouettes of weeping trees. Willow trees are symbols of life, grief, and magic in literature and spirituality. In folklore, the Willow uproots to stalk unwary travelers, and you’ve probably heard of the Whomping Willow, a tree that wallops anyone who comes near it. If you’re brave enough to plant one anyway, be sure to provide 50 feet from underground utility lines. These guys grow fast and their roots can do some damage, even if they can’t throw a punch. 

3. Jimsonweed | Datura stramonium

Have you been seeing things and feeling a little out of it after drinking that brew from the nice lady in the gingerbread cottage? Maybe she “accidentally” added some seeds from the Devil’s Snare, also known as Jimson Weed. Found around Mexico and the Southwest, this foul-smelling plant produces delirium, dilated pupils, photophobia, and amnesia for days, and possibly weeks after ingestion. It’s best to avoid eating these seeds in the future. As a matter of fact, you might want to avoid eating just about anything a witch drops into your goodie bag.

4. Rosemary | Rosmarinus officinalis

Rosemary has many magic uses. In the Middle Ages, people believed it would ward off evil spirits and witches, and sometimes dropped Rosemary into graves so a deceased loved one would not be forgotten. Folks carried a bit of the plant to protect themselves from the evil eye and hung Rosemary over a cradle to prevent faeries from stealing their baby. Now that we think of it, the scariest thing about Rosemary is the film, Rosemary’s Baby. That scared the Jimpsonweed out of us.

5. Wormwood | Artemesia absinthium

One of the most common plants in California, California sagebrush is the same genus as Wormwood, Artemesia absinthium, a plant that witches have used for centuries. They used it to wake the dead, and to stimulate digestion, eliminate parasites, and prevent malaria. You may have heard of it as the “poisonous” ingredient in the alcoholic drink, absinthe. We’ve never hallucinated when drinking absinthe, but maybe we didn’t drink enough…

6. Chinese Lantern Plant | Physalis alkekengi

The fruit of Chinese Lantern Plant make great Halloween decorations when added to your holiday flower arrangement and (this is our favorite part)…if you let them mature on the plant, the outside pod becomes a spooky white skeleton around the orange seed inside. That’s so cool, we’re going to try growing some of our own.

7. Apple | Malus pumila

The poison apple from Sleeping Beauty may have made more sense over 100 years ago, when the core of an apple bore seeds laced with enough cyanide to kill a person. The strength of the poison has been bred out of the apples we grow today. Even without the cyanide, apples are a part of festive Autumn traditions like cider and donuts, candy apples, and apple bobbing. Despite their seasonal nature, if you hand out apples to trick-or-treaters, you may need to carry Rosemary to protect you from the evil eye.

8. Poison Oak | Toxicodendron diversilobum

Okay, there is one plant that really scares most of us Gatesters: poison oak. We don’t even like to think about it, so we’re not.

9. Witch Hazel |  Hamamelis virginiana

Witch hazel has a mysterious name and extraordinary history to match. Y-shaped witch hazel sticks were used as “divining rods” to find underground water. Native Americans used parts of the plant for a wide variety of remedies. After distillation, it’s a natural base for all kinds of cosmetics. We’re drawn to it at Halloween for its fall blooms of stringy yellow petals that look more like a creepy bug than a flower.

10. Black Mondo Grass | Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘nigrescens’

We’ve seen cool and spooky black plants, but none are as cool, spooky, or black as Black mondo grass. This plant’s not deep purple: it’s black. If that’s not enough to recommend it for your Halloween landscape, it looks like a mass of giant spiders crawling out of the earth. It isn’t rare; you can probably find it at your local nursery…if it doesn’t find you, first.

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