Deadly Harry Potter plant devil's snare turns up in Suffolk pensioner's garden

A deadly tropical plant featured in Harry Potter and used by South American Indians as a poison and hallucinogen has been found in a Suffolk garden.

Deadly: devil's snare. Image: Barry Phillips/RHS Herbarium
Deadly: devil's snare. Image: Barry Phillips/RHS Herbarium

Datura stramonium, also known as devil's snare, is normally found in South and Central America, but was discovered earlier this year by 79-year-old Phyllis Abbott from Newmarket.

The plant is highly poisonous and is used by South American Indians for their hunting spears and fishing hooks and in sacred ceremonies by Hindu monks for its hallucinogenic qualities.

Devil's snare also features in the first of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, where it is used as an obstacle to would-be thieves. 

Abbott discovered it in spring while tending polyanthus in the same bed.

It was only a few inches tall but has since topped five feet and, according to the RHS, could reach over 12. 

Abbott said: "My biggest concern was for people with little children in case it spread. We have neighbours with young ones at the bottom of the garden."    

A keen gardener, she thought the plant was a weed and considered pulling it. It was not until months later when it had grown shoulder height that their son identified it as devil's snare using the internet.

Abbott and her husband George, who have nine grandchildren, have been stunned by the media attention the find has generated.

Its poison causes dry mouth, blurred vision, heart irregularities, hallucinations, and eventually coma and death in severe cases.

Datura stramonium has large, pale, trumpet-shaped flowers and spiny pods.

Identification was eventually verified by the RHS, which warned the couple that it was highly venomous and speculated it may have arrived in Suffolk via bird droppings.

Abbott said: "I have no idea how it got there, it really is a bit of a mystery."

The RHS has advised the couple to dig up the plant due to the danger it poses to humans and pets.

But Abbott said she was happy to leave it for a while.

She said: "I don't mind leaving it there until people who want to have seen it but then we will dig it up. We have already had a couple of people call who think they may have the same thing in their gardens."

The plant belongs to the same family as deadly nightshade, though its poison acts more strongly on the brain.

The leaves give off a pungent, nauseating odour and the flowers smell sweet, but both are narcotic and can induce hallucinations or stupor if breathed in for too long. Its seeds are particularly poisonous if eaten.


Subscribe to Horticulture Week for more news, more in-depth features and more technical and market info.


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next



Versatile and tough, this genus is easy to grow and is tolerant of a wide range of soils, says Miranda Kimberley.

Sargent's Solutions - How should landscape contractors handle design features they feel may breach regulations?

Sargent's Solutions - How should landscape contractors handle design features they feel may breach regulations?

Written disclaimers from clients will not protect you against future liability claims, Alan Sargent warns.

Get set for this summer's Parks & Gardens Live 2019

Get set for this summer's Parks & Gardens Live 2019

Product showcase, kit demos, expert workshops and careers advice all on the schedule.

Horticulture Week Top 70 Landscape and maintenance contractors

See our exclusive RANKING of landscape and maintenance contractors by annual turnover plus BUSINESS TRENDS REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs


Build your business with the latest public sector tenders covering landscape, arboriculture, grounds care, production and kit supplies. To receive the latest tenders weekly to your inbox sign up for our Tenders Tracker bulletin here.

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.


Free to subscribers, the essential guide for professional plant buyers

Download your copy

Products & Kit Resources