Conservatory of Flowers exhibit stars "wicked" plants

April 7, 2011 6:14:24 AM PDT
A new exhibit opening in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on Thursday prominently features rogues and assassins; not evil people, but evil plants.

There's evil lurking in the garden at the Conservatory of Flowers. Evil that looks pretty, but can kill.

"If you're a plant, that's pretty important when you wake up in the morning - that you don't get eaten. Well how do plants do that? They can't run away and hide, they can't fight back, but they can inflict pain and suffering on anyone who tries to eat them," said author Amy Stewart.

Amy Stewart wrote a book called "Wicked Plants" - depicting all the cruel and unusual pain plants can inflict on people and animals. The topic was so unusual, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park decided to bring the book to life and has created a garden full of killer plants.

"This exhibit is not meant to scare people, but just kind of remind them how important it is to respect nature," said Lau Hodges of the Conservatory of Flowers.

Some of the plants were tough to get - like hemlock which killed Socrates. But others were impossible. The curator wanted marijuana or a coca plant, that cocaine is extracted from, but the city attorney said no.

"I think it would have been cool if they had been able to do that. I visited a poison garden in the United Kingdom that was able to grow some of those plants with special permission from the government, but we're not quite there yet," said Stewart.

They did include tobacco, which Stewart has crowned the most wicked plant in the world.

"Ninety million people have been killed by tobacco worldwide since we started counting," said Stewart.

Many of the plants in the exhibit have a story - like white snakeroot which is best known for killing Abe Lincoln's mother. It's the stories that transform these plants from simple vines growing in the wild -- to intriguing living creatures with a dark side.


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