Alnwick Poison Gardens. The gardens were established in 2005 by the Duchess of Northumberland who’s affinity for the apothecary gardens inspired the collection of nearly 100 deadly and hallucinogenic plants.


From the front door of the glass-walled gift shop at the Alnwick Garden in the far northeast of England, the scene looks innocent enough. A sapphire green English lawn slopes gently downward, toward traditional, ornamental gardens of rose and bamboo. Across the small valley, water cascades down a terraced fountain.

But a hundred or so plantings kept behind bars in this castle’s garden are more menacing — and have much to tell visitors about poison and the evolutionary roots of medicine.

“These Plants Can Kill” warn two signs on a locked, iron gate that’s also marked with a skull and crossbones.

The Duchess of Northumberland (aka Jane Percy) started the Poison Garden in 2005 as part of the 12-acre, elaborate garden on the grounds of her family’s home, Alnwick Castle.

Many of England’s cities and towns have apothecary gardens — historical plots containing plants turned into treatments centuries ago by doctors, herbalists, religious folks and shamans. Most such gardens exist today to teach visitors about the history of medicine.

Welcome To The Poison Garden: Medicine’s Medieval Roots

Photos: Joanne Silberner for NPR


The Alnwick Poison Garden is a gated garden located inside The Alnwick Garden adjacent to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England. This gated garden features a number of intoxicating and poisonous plants, such as nux vomica, the source of strychnine. This poison is often used to kill small mammals but has also been used by a number of murderers. The garden consists of approximately 100 deadly plants and has a number of warning signs to not touch or even small the plants, with the majority being caged.


Deadly plants and a giant treehouse in Britain’s coolest garden

Unapologetically contemporary, occasionally weird and always inspiring, Alnwick Garden in Northeast England is a must-see. It features a poison garden (home to Deadly Nightshade, Mandrake and even a certain narcotic normally banned in Britain) as well as a bamboo labyrinth and a treehouse restaurant. Find out more


The Alnwick Garden is a complex of formal gardens adjacent to Alnwick Castle in the town of Alnwick, Northumberland, England.  The poison garden features intoxicating and poisonous plants. Species of the Poison Garden include Nux Vomica (source of Strychnine), Hemlock, Ricinus Communis (source of harmless Castor Oil but also deadly Ricin), Foxglove, Atropa Belladonna, Brugmansia, and Laburnum.