Killer plants versus The Blob

HalloweenWhat’s more fun? Visiting a garden that can kill or finding The Blob in your garden? Let’s see…

The Poison Garden at Alnwick in England has a sign on its locked gate that says “These Plants May Kill”. I can’t think of a better incentive to enter for gawkers and gardeners alike. There are over 100 plants of varying deadliness on display. Some of the plants are so effective, so to speak, they need a license to be grown. Needless to say, you can’t just run around this place. You have to take a guided tour. But perhaps even more interesting might be to meet the woman behind the redevelopment of the Alnwick Garden, the Duchess of Northumberland. I love the way she thinks:

“I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill… I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be.” – Duchess of Northumberland

But wouldn’t actually walking up to a real Blob in your own backyard be way cooler? That’s exactly what happened to someone in Dallas back in 1973. They found a mass “pulsating in the grass. News reports on the discovery claimed that a ‘new life form’ had been found”. Actually, it was a very old form of life known as a plasmodial slime mold. The Dallas blob was unusually large at more than 14 inches in diameter. Not quite the size of the one Steve McQueen battled but, still, nothing you’d want to step on with your bare feet, either.

GEEK ALERT: In the college course on native plants I’m taking, I learned that this kind of slime mold is a symbiotroph with multinudeate protoplasts. Oh, yeah.

Kinda both a fungi and an animal, a slime mold can live as independent cells but, when the environment isn’t to their liking, they can band together, literally, to form a single, erm, thing (sometimes called a collective slug) and proceed to “ooze” towards whatever it is it/they need such as more light or better food. They can move at a rate of about one inch per day.

Here’s a video of slim mold in action–nature at its most frighteningly beautiful. Happy Halloween!

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