Do you want to avoid burglars and nosy neighbours? And pets and small children? And possibly all other human beings? But do you also have a refined aesthetic sense — none of that ugly concrete, please — and a green thumb? No worries! These anti-personnel plants are as effective as any moat.
The plant kingdom is full of poisons, thorns and noxious odours — all of which can be weaponised to keep away unwanted human contact. The UK’s Metropolitan Police has offered 30 plants to deter thieves, but why stop there? Here are some green solutions to keep away burglars and everyone else. Presented in order from least to most isolating.
Image via W. Baumgartner/Wikimedia Commons
Replace your soft, grassy lawn with spiky carpet of creeping juniper, and nobody’s going to want to walk, let alone sunbathe or play catch, on the plant’s needle-like leaves. The one downside is that those leaves soften and mellow with age, so if you yourself are only feeling more crotchety over time, consider one of the other options on this list.
Image via Endlisnis/Flickr
Far more sightly than barbed-wired fences, blackberry shrubs can nevertheless serve the same purpose. The shrubs grow several feet wide and tall, forming dense, thorny thickets deterring anyone who has pain receptors. Plop delicious berries in your mouth, free from the worry of trespassers.
Image via Didier Descouen/Wikimedia Commons
If edible berry shrubs are attracting too much positive attention, the yew is a powerful, poisonous alternative. The seeds are the most dangerous part of the plant, and there is no antidote. Planted under a first floor window, the common landscaping shrub could also help deter break-ins.
Manchineel (Or: “Little Apple of Death”)
Image via Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons
An even more effective poison is one that seeps directly through the skin. This innocent-looking fruit tree is one of the most poisonous plants in the world. The manchineel produces a milky white sap so toxic that even standing under the tree during rainfall can cause blisters. Smoke from a burning manchineel can cause blindness. That’ll show ’em.
The giant hogweed has a more insidious poison — ideal for the secretly vengeful. Its sap only becomes toxic under sunlight, upon which it causes irritation so severe that permanently scarring and blindness can result. The plant itself looks pretty and innocuous enough, like a tall version of Queen Anne’s lace.
Image via NY Dept of Environmental Conservation
Image via US Botanic Garden
The corpse flower only blooms once every few decades, but boy is it glorious when it does. A rotting stench befitting its name permeates the air. Pollinating flies are attracted to the smell of decomposing mammal, but live humans sure won’t be.
In the late 1900s, accounts of a horrifying man-eating tree reached Australia. Newspapers described in graphic detail a human sacrifice by tree in Madagascar:
The slender delicate palpi, with the fury of starved serpents, quivered a moment over her head, then as if instinct with demoniac intelligence fastened upon her in sudden coils round and round her neck and arms; then while her awful screams and yet more awful laughter rose wildly to be instantly strangled down again into a gurgling moan, the tendrils one after another, like great green serpents, with brutal energy and infernal rapidity, rose, retracted themselves, and wrapped her about in fold after fold, ever tightening with cruel swiftness and savage tenacity of anacondas fastening upon their prey.
Is it real? Alas, no. Would it be really damn good at keeping people away? Yes.
Please don’t actually plant most of these. Specifically, the deadly ones. Lead photo of mansion in Hamptons obscured by hedges via AP Photo/Mark Lennihan