Friday, October 31, 2008

Scary Plants--A Halloween Post

During our recent camping and hiking trip, I kept noticing all the dead and dying plants. I have always loved this stage of the plants.

And of course, I thought what a great Halloween post idea. The ghouls and goblins of the plant world.

Can't you just imagine blood dripping off the head of this plant?

Speaking of blood, I also came across this prickly pear covered in white fuzz.
During my entomology class, I learned that this fuzz is actually cochineal scale. Scale are hiding under all that protective white fuzz.

If you scrape some of that scale off and crush it, you'll find yourself covered in blood.
Okay, not really, but you will be covered in a red gel that is used as a scarlet dye. Dr. Mike Merchant told me that the British Redcoats used this dye to make their coats red. (If you are really interested, this blog has a detailed discussion of whether the British could afford to dye all those coats with crushed cochineal.)

What I want to know is how did the Aztecs, the original dye users, figure this out? Did someone fall into a prickly pear, find himself bleeding, and then realize that it wasn't blood after all but squished bugs?

What would a Halloween post be without a spider? How about a spider reeling in a grasshopper twice its size?
I don't have any pictures of Children of the Corn, but I do have one of Dog in the Milo.
I have saved for last what many people view as the scariest part of camping.
Just down this lovely path is the . . .

Have a scary Halloween!


  1. That's got to be the nicest looking outhouse I've ever seen!

  2. Love your scary plant photos! What a fun timely post.

  3. Is that a Clivus Multrum composting toilet? I've been big fans of theirs since the 1970s. The amount of water we waste with flush toilets appalls me. It's so 19th century. Where are the new technologies?

  4. Happy Halloween to you too. That blood plant is way cool!

  5. I really thought the first plant was an eye! Great photos! happy Halloween. Gail

  6. Scary stuff. You just never know what's lurking out there in the dim light at the end of path, or the close of a day.

    Happy Halloween to you as well.

  7. *snicker*

    The outhouse doesn't scare me-- I had to use worse camping with friends "up north" when I was a kid. What scares me is "roughing it" in the woods when there's no outhouse. Eek!

    And that blood plant is way cool. Just think of how many plants it must have taken to dye an entire army red! (Or to paint the town red!)

  8. Very appropriate posting for a garden blog on Halloween.

    Always Growing

  9. Very interesting about the red coats. I love plant (and bug) histories like this. It is so interesting and ingenious how people used them.