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Photo by Max Gough

Australian Sex Appeal, It's Deadly

Australian Sex Appeal, It's Deadly


I love weird, structural plants and anything that attracts hummingbirds or has alien looking flowers. Where does one find such specimens you may ask? It seems Australia has a plethora of them. Not only are they weird and even (swoon) toxic, many of them happen to be well suited to our climate here in LA. While I've mostly stuck with California native plants, I admit I have been flirting with Australia lately. I've always been a sucker for an accent.

Some of the oddest looking plants in the world can be found in the land down under and lucky for you, they are showcased in this article by Nadina Hughes. I love her blog, you too will love it.

This plant is called a Desert Pea and is protected by the Australian government. No picking these little aliens, no sir. I'd love to have an army of these crawling across my yard. I wonder if I can find seeds for them.


Here are a few more weird plants, some from Australia, some not. I love the bat faced one.


Then there's this...  This is an Australian Baobab tree and that's pretty much all I can say definitively about this picture. Why is this girl being swallowed by it (birthed by it?) and why does she look like Laura Ingalls Wilder? Apparently, these trees were used as jail cells once upon a time!?!


This is a Corymbia Ficifolia and it's a beautiful Australian tree, indeed one of the most spectacular in all the world. So fuzzy.


And more fuzzy: Acacia trees. There are so many different types. Make sure to do your research though, some of them can be invasive in southern California. That means they can be bad breaker-uppers too.


I'm having a love affair with Grevillea right now. I planted a Grevillea Long John in my front yard and it's seductive. Grevillea have pine tree like needles on them and require very little water. They love full sun and scorching heat. Their best feature, however, would have to be the flowers that spring magically up and out like exploding firecrackers or caterpillars. There are so many different colors it's dizzying and hummingbirds love them. Thank you, Australia. Behold!

Now, let's not skip over the Australian plants that can kill you...or at least make you violently ill.

This pretty little Black Bean tree produces large pods filled with toxic seeds from March-May and will make you very very sick. I hate myself for loving you...


One of the ten most poisonous plants on earth, the Strychnine Tree, also known as the semen strychnos (let's be adults please) produces orange like fruits that contain neurotoxins. Ingest one of these and you'll likely experience convulsions, paralysis, or may even die. It's used in small doses in homeopathic medicine and in large doses in rat poison. I'm intrigued but I have to pass.


There are over 2000 types of Euphorbia, most of which contain a toxic sap known to irritate the skin, eyes, and even cause blindness. I planted this Blackbird Euphorbia in my yard so yeah, duly noted.


I see Angel's Trumpets all over Los Angeles. Guess what? These Australian imports can be poisonous.


Pitcher Plants are found in many places, not just Australia. They trap insects in their evil little vases and have been known to devour whole rats. You can buy them at California Carnivores.


Deadly Nightshade and Oleander also call Australia home. Can everything in Australia kill you?

If danger and beauty are your thing, you can find many Australian plants at the magnificent Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria. Not only do they sell rare imported plants but they also have demonstration gardens for Australian, South African, and California natives. They were doing drought tolerant before we had a drought. You can also go to australianplants.com and order some plants online.


Finally, may I recommend Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. Witty, informative, and chock full of great illustrations, Stewart will take you on a tour of the villainous botanicals lurking in your own back yard. Yes, Australia, we too can be devious here in the states. Maybe it's because you're beautiful, bad, and mysterious, but I believe you and I are made for each other, mate.

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