A few weeks ago I blogged about plant names and how they can be misleading.  Since Halloween is only a week away I thought I would share with you three of my favorite spooky plants: Death Camass, Bloodroot and Skeleton Weed.

Death Camass (Zigadenus venenosus) is a native bulbous perennial that is found throughout the Midwest.  Out of the three that I will talk about this one is a real killer.  From first glance it looks like an Allium or wild onion.  It’s pretty.  Death Camass contains a steroid toxin called zygacine.  Most cases of death has been in livestock.  But misidentification has occurred there have been a few reported cases of human fatalities too.  Be smart.  If you are unable to identify anything in the wild – don’t eat it.

Skeleton Weed (Lygodesmia juncea) sounds spooky but in all honesty it is harmless.  Found throughout the state of Nebraska this plant belongs in the sunflower family.  Pale lavender flowers are held on skeleton-like stems with no leaves.  When not in flower it can be easily missed.  It only grows about 12” tall so you have to look for it.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is a native perennial found mainly on the eastern side of Nebraska along the Missouri valley.  Short reaching only about 6” tall blooming in the spring with white flowers and belongs in the poppy family.  The name common name comes from the rex latex juice that is stored in the roots that was used as a dye by Native Americans.  The plant also contains a toxin called sanguinarine that has some medical properties that have been studied.

If you want to know more you should check out the Alnwick Poison Garden in Alnwick, England that is surrounded by a black rod iron fence with “These plants can kill” posted on the gates.  Sounds like a fun time to me!

Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.