Growing Nux vomica- The Strychnine Tree


I need a photograph of a Nux vomica plant, the strychnine tree for the book that I am writing about poisonous plants, ‘Death in the Garden.’

Gerard the herbalist wrote about the medical use of the seeds; the name Nux vomica gives the game away. The vomiting nut. The seeds were used for purging to balance the humour.

The other main use of the seeds was to poison vermin, or people.

As far as I can tell, the only  establishment that grows it in England is the Chelsea Physic Garden. I will try to  photograph their plant later, but meanwhile I have decided to attempt to grow my own.

I bought the seeds online. I have no idea of how old they are or even if they are viable.


The seeds have a nipple

The seeds are easily identified, being flat with a distinctive a nipple in the centre.

Today I finally thought it was time to have a go. Having pondered my options,  I decided that I would treat the seeds  in a similar manner to Sweet {Peas.

I have first soaked them in water for a few hours.


The seeds were soaked in water

I then thinned the coating of the seed.

The seeds were put into a clear plastic bag with compost. I then tied the top of the bag to keep the compost moist.


The seeds were mixed with compost and put in a plastic bag

The bag has been placed in the dark.

I now have to wait – and hope.

Looking on the bright side; I have grown numerous avacado plants using a similar method.

Fingers crossed….

I am a garden historian, but a practical one. I resarch how gardening was carried out in the past, rather than just researching gardens. It can be very interesting. Some things that I learn seem to be rather unbelievable. Some other methods are still very practical. Visit my web site-

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Posted in Historic Gardener. Gardening-Horticulture, historic gardening, Michael Brown, Uncategorized
3 comments on “Growing Nux vomica- The Strychnine Tree
  1. Good luck with your experimenting , always fun

  2. Solomon Gilbert says:

    Interestingly enough, the ‘nux-vomica’ part of the name comes from the rounded shape of the seeds. Strychnine itself only causes vomiting on very very rare occasions as a side effect, but is obviously incredibly toxic so please do take good care in growing this!

    Having said that, I’d love to know whether you had any success, as I’m trying to grow some and can’t find any online information.

    • Nux vomica actually means the Vomiting Nut and it was used as a purge. I was trying to grow the plant to photograph it for my book, ‘Death in the Garden’ but the seeds were probably not viable. I do use the spare ones for display. Luckily Chelsea Physic Garden had a plant, so I photographed theirs.

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