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Deadly and Disgusting Plants and Fungi

From 18 October until 2 November, coinciding with half term and Halloween, explore Deadly and Disgusting Plants and Fungi at Kew Gardens. 

From surprising displays of notorious plants in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, to an interactive poisons quest, the season will highlight the ensnaring, bewitching and lethal offerings from the natural world and show visitors just how powerful their chemicals can be.

  • The Peril of the Poisonous Plant: Join Mira Cullgrow and Ivor Monocle in a battle of wits created by immersive theatre company Goat and Monkey against the mischievous Smedly Deadly and his poisonous plants. Begin the adventure at the Secluded Glasshouse where you’ll pick up a special trail map to follow around the gardens, solving clues and riddles before it’s too late. 

    The trail will run every day with the exception of 24 October.
  • Lose yourself in the new Deadly Poisons Trail and confront some of the deadliest plants known to man: from the plant with the highest toxicity level in the world, Ricinus communis (castor beans) to the plant serial killer used in hundreds of murders Strychnos nux-vomica, (Strychnine tree). Follow the clues to find poisons and cures. All is not always what it seems, as a plant can be both.
  • A Spoonful of Science: At twice-weekly workshops and talks hosted by Kew experts, discover more about the incredible work behind-the-scenes on site. From working with the police to identify plant-based poisons in murder cases, to discovering more about the diverse armoury of compounds that plant and fungi synthesis to protect themselves, visitors will gain an insight into Kew’s pivotal research in these areas and learn why conservation efforts are so vital.
  • Magical Mushroomshands-on sessions: Discover the secret world of mycelium, examine fungi specimens; and get hands-on with straw bales inoculated with shiitake mushroom spores.(11am to 1pm, The Secluded Lawn)
  • The Dark Side of Plants tour: Uncover the dangerous secrets hiding behind the beautiful exteriors of plants with walking tours from our Volunteer Guides. Tours start at Victoria Plaza. Limited capacity, please register with guide 15 minutes before start time. Groups of six or more need to pre-book a guided tour, call 020 8332 5604. Tours run daily at 12noon.
  • Venture behind-the-scenes and boost your plant know-how at the Tropical Nursery open days. 18 and 19 October.
  • A Mind-altering World: From the everyday to the notorious, visit our display to see mind-altering plants in their living form, and find out about their stories from discovery, to present day. Princess of Wales Conservatory, North End
  • Mind-blowing Microscopy Exhibition: What does a plant actually chemical look like? Find out at this stunning exhibition of microscopic images of chemicals extracted from mind-altering plants, and discover how these powerful chemicals affect our body. The Secluded Garden Lawn
  • Mechanical Chemical Machine:  Get hands-on with this fun game to show how consuming a plant chemical can interrupt, or manipulate human protein receptors, and change the way we behave. The Secluded Garden Lawn

Notes to Editors:

For images visit Kewimages. Please contact Kew’s press office for a username and password.

For more information on the festival, or any of Kew’s work, please contact the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Press Office on 020 8332 5607 or email

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract over 1.5 million visits every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. Kew receives approximately half its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.