The term Devil’s Garden refers to a phenomena in the densest parts of the Amazon rain forest. In these microcosms of nature, only a single or very few plant species grow; something rarely found in that diverse ecosystem. Devil’s gardens are said to be the sacred resting place of an evil spirit and anyone who dares violate the space are subjected to a curse or worse. But, like most things, science has an explanation as to why it happens – read more here. Yet, this piece is not about the rain forest. For our analysis, the Devil’s Garden is diverse, global, and revealing and the plants in it have virtually nothing to do with one another.
There are numerous plants, herbs, flowers, and roots which are connected only by the fact that they have names or nicknames with the term “devil” in them. The origin of how the names came to be differs among cultures and historians, so for the sake of keeping peace in our devil’s garden, this article does not focus on it. They are found worldwide and often grow in inhospitable places, Plus, many of the plants and herbs in this compilation are poisonous or were used in ancient spells to ward off the devil, or demonic influences.
Long before modern medicine, both healers and witches immersed themselves in the magickal power of plants. These plants were essential for healing all types of injuries and sicknesses, plus as ingredients in potions and spells for either healing or to attack someone.
I’ve tried to find everything that fit’s into this group, but if you see something I’ve missed, please add it to the comment section and I’ll add it to the Devil’s Garden. So far, the count is fifty and rising.
The Devil’s Garden Lineup
Asafoetida – known by both Devil’s Resin and Devil’s Dung, this plant from the Apiaceae family is very similar in appearance to fennel, but get’s it’s nickname due to the fact it has a rotten smell. It is found in the Middle East mainly and the hollow stem and roots of the plant house a milky substance that is rich in organic sulfur. It is used in cooking mainly, as a substitute for onions and garlic alike. Practitioners of natural medicine make a resin from the plant’s juices as carminative, antispasmodic, and to help women restart the menstrual cycle.
Devil’s Guts, Devil’s Hair, or Devil’s Ringlet – there are many nicknames for Dodder (Cuscuta), a genus of about 100–170 species of yellow, orange, or red (rarely green) parasitic plants which belong to the Morning Glory family. It is considered an invasive species. The plant contains chemicals which slow the growth of cancer cells and improve liver health. Dodder is used to treat urinary tract infections, psychiatric, and hepatic disorders. It is also used for depression and in some instances to treat pain. It seems fitting that a parasitic plant would thrive in the Devil’s Garden.
Datura is a genus of nine species of poisonous Vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. They are also called Devil’s Trumpets and Devil’s Weed. Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed) is called Devil’s Snare and Devil’s Cucumber. There is a purported drug made from the flowers of this plant called Devil’s Breath, and some are supposedly calling this plant the same, but it’s unsubstantiated at this time.
Chaff Flowers (Achyranthes aspera) are also called Devil’s Horse Whip. They are considered a powerful healing agent that is widely used in ayurvedic medicine in India. The plant is a species of the plant in the amaranthaceae family and is native to tropical regions of Asia as well as India.
Devil’s Bit (Succisa pratensis) is a flowering plant in the Honeysuckle family which is also known as Devil’s-bit and Devil’s-bit Scabious. Some species of this plant were used in the treatment of scabies and sores from the bubonic plague. Its common name arises from the fact that its roots look truncated, as if bitten off, legend has it, by the Devil. This plant contains tannins, saponins, glycosides, starch, caffeic acid and mineral salts. It is also used externally to treat wounds, insect bites, and ringworm, plus thrush, intestinal worms, epilepsy, and gonorrhea.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is alo known as Devil’s Nettle or Devil’s Plaything, Yarrow is one of the most useful herbs known to humankind. It contains anti-inflammatory and antiseptic volatile oils, and astringent tannins. These properties promote healing of cuts and wounds, burns and ulcers, and inflammatory skin conditions.
Devil’s Shoestring – Hobble Bush (Vibrunum alnifolium) is what’s usually referred to as Devil’s Shoestring, but it should be known that there are several other plants which also are called Devil’s shoestring. It is primarily used in witchcraft and magickal workings to bring luck and protect against any sort of attack. Devil’s Shoestring is also widely used in mojo bags for getting a new job. Another plant which is also called Devil’s Shoestring is the Cracca Virginia, which is also known as the Devil’s Thongs.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) has been called Devil’s Eye – it’s a highly toxic plant which is part of the Nightshade family; the leaves are considered the most toxic part. It is used in folk medicine and in some cultures for smoking, but never ingested as consumption can be fatal. It is one of the legendary “witch” plants, heralded in folklore for its magickal properties; this is because of the high alkaloid concentration in the plant, which cause hallucinations. It is one of the main ingredients in witches’ flying ointment, along with deadly nightshade and wolfsbane.
The Elder (Sambucus nigra) of common elderberry is a very useful plant. It has also been referred to as Devil’s Eye, but not commonly. Elder has been used at least since the ancient Egyptians discovered that applying its flowers improved the complexion and healed burns. The ancient Romans also used elder. Called “the medicine chest of the country people” by Europeans, elder has a rich folklore. Of all the herbs known, Mandrake is probably the only herb that has more stories associated with it other than Elder. Modern herbalists make elderberry syrup as a potent anti-oxidant to keep away winter colds and flu symptoms under control.
Devil’s Claw – (Harpagophytum procumbens) is native to southern Africa particularly the Kalahari Desert, Namibia, and Madagascar. The name devil’s claw comes from the hooks that cover its fruits. It is used for pain relief, being an anti-inflammatory, and to manage symptoms of arthritis and osteoarthritis.
False Unicorn (Chamaelirium) has also been called Devil’s Bit. The root of this herb has been used by Native Americans for boosting fertility. It acts directly on the ovaries, repairing the lining of the uterus and it regulates ovulation. It is also used for treating discomfort and digestive issues that were caused by pregnancy (morning sickness or vomiting).
Cape Fuchsia (Phygelius x rectus) – is known as Devil’s Tears. The plant is a robust shrub with dark green leaves and large panicles of red buds opening to pendent, tubular deep pink flowers with orange lobes and yellow throats. It has no known medicinal use but might look good in the Devil’s Garden.
Devil’s Backbone (Pedilanthus tithymaloides) – more commonly known as Slipper Flower, is a succulent shrub with thick zig-zag shaped stems found in the dry tropical forests of Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and northern South America. The sap of this plant is a skin irritant. Ingestion can cause vomiting and severe digestive issues.
Ironically, there are two plants with the nickname Devil’s Backbone. The other is the Veldit Grape, or Cissus Quadrangularis, a vine that grows in Africa and parts of Asia. It is one of the most commonly used medicinal plants in Thailand, and is also used in traditional African and Ayurvedic medicine. This plant is high in vitamin C, able to reduce inflammation and help with pain. Many feel that Devils Backbone is just as effective as many of the over-the-counter pain relievers. It also helps with the absorption of calcium which can help heal broken bones.
Mistletoe is sometimes, although rarely, known as Devil’s Fuge. It is an evergreen parasitical plant which is both revered and hated. Eating the plant can be fatal, however it does have medicinal properties to treat seizures, headaches, cancer, infertility, hypertension and arthritis. There are two distinctly different types, the American and European. Learn more about mistletoe on this website at this link.
Devil’s Club – also known as Devil’s Walking Stick or Devil’s Root (also called Alaskan Ginseng – actually part of the ivy family, but related to the ginseng family) is a thorny shrub found in the Pacific Northwest. It is used for numerous aliments including treating arthritis, fever, tuberculosis, cancer, coughs, colds, sore throat, stomach disorders, diabetes, low blood sugar, and pneumonia. It is also used to evacuate the bowels and to force vomiting. Topically it’s been used for swollen glands, boils, sores, and skin infections.
Epipremnum aureum, better known as the houseplant Golden Pothos has also been called Devil’s Ivy and Devil’s Vine mainly because it’s nearly impossible to kill. This plant remains green and healthy looking even when kept in darkness. It is considered mildly toxic to human beings. In the wild, this plant attaches itself to other items through aerial roots. It then sends shoots of stems down until it reaches the soil beneath it, where the stems themselves take root and begin to grow across the ground.
Devil’s Thorn (Tribulus terrestris) is an annual plant in the caltrop family. It’s also been called Devil’s Eyelashes and Devil’s Weed. This herb has been used in natural medicine for thousands of years to treat everything from sexual dysfunction to kidney stones and more. It’s known to help both men and women with low libido. It works by increasing testosterone production by stimulating the pituitary gland to release luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone, in turn, increases testosterone levels and enhances not only libido in men but also increases libido in women. Women with a low libido often have low levels of testosterone in their bodies. If you have specific questions about herbs to help improve your sex life, try this article.
The common puffball fungus (Lycoperdon perlatum) is known by many names, including Devil’s Snuffbox. Puffballs are edible, but only when very young, when it’s white covered with tiny spines. Once mature, the puffball will darken and the top will slough away, leaving a hole that releases powdery spores in a big ‘puff” when disturbed.
The Wild Yam (Diosgenin) is also called Devil’s Bones. It’s known as a natural alternative to estrogen therapy. The phytosterols found in wild yams are the precursors to modern-day sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. It can jump-start the libido by increasing estrogen in the body. Wild yam is also used for treating a disorder of the intestines called diverticulosis, gallbladder pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and for increasing energy. This herb is also part of a larger group of plants referred to as colicroot which have been nicknamed in part as Devil’s Bit.
Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri), more commonly known as Octopus Stinkhorn is a fungus found across the globe. It has an unpleasant smell and when found in nature appears to be something akin to an alien being emerging from an egg. It is edible and non-toxic, but smells like rotten flesh. There are several great pictures of the early growth stages of this fungus at Charismatic Planet.
Konjac is an edible Asian plant (Amorphophallus konjac) known also as Devil’s Tongue. It is a tropical plant that features a large purplish red flower similar to a lily. This rare tropical plant is grown for the edible tubers it produces in many parts of Asia. It is related to the really smelly corpse flower and has a stink that can certainly drive people away.
One species of barrel cactus (Ferocactus latispinus) is also referred to as the Devil’s Tongue because of the shape and color of the spines. When the skin and spines are peeled off, the flesh can be eaten raw or candied. They also provide an emergency source of water like most cacti, by cutting off the top of the plant, drinking the pulpy sap.
The prickly pear cactus (Opunita) is known as the Devil’s Cactus – additionally, the Opuntia humifusa is called the Devil’s Tongue. The cactus family contains about 1800 species.
Proboscidea is a genus of flowering plant in the family Martyniaceae, some of whose species are known as Devil’s Claw or Devil’s Horn. The plants produce long, hooked seed pods. The hooks catch on the feet of animals, and as the animals walk, the pods are ground or crushed open, dispersing the seeds.
Queen Anne’s Lace is known as Devil’s Plague. Formally the wild carrot is called (Daucus carota) and the roots contains minerals, pectin and vitamins A, B and C; the seeds and plant contain daucine, an alkaloid, and volatile oils (daucol, limonene and pinene). It is antispasmodic, carminative and diuretic, and has been used internally for gastrointestinal complaints, kidney stones, menstrual dysfunction, urinary tract infections and gout, and topically for itching.
What some people call an Indigo Berry is a species of passionflower (Passiflora suberosa) and has been called Devil’s Pumpkin. The fruit is not hardy and transitions from green to indigo, purple and, lastly, black as it ripens.
Devil’s Apple (Solanum linnaeanum) is a poisonous plant and a member of the nightshade family. The fruit of this plant looks like a tomato. There are several other plants which have been called Devil’s Apple including Datura, Podophyllum, and several species of the Solanum genus.
Celandine (Chelidonium majus) is one of many plants having acrid milky juices, which are called Devil’s Milk. The juice of Devil’s Milk was a supposed cure for warts in the old days. Like many other plants in this review, celandine is considered invasive and nearly impossible to eradicate once taken hold.
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea Cyanus) is a wildflower used in natural medicine to improve digestion, regulate the gall bladder, liver and kidneys as well as for menstrual disorders and to increase resistance to infections. It can also be used to wash out wounds and is excellent on mouth ulcers as well as eye treatment. It’s also known as the Devil’s Flower.
The Devil’s Garden would not be complete without at least one species of tree. The Alstonia scholaris is an evergreen tropical tree called the Devil’s Tree. They can rapidly grow up to 130 feet in height and the wood is very nice to work with. The bark contains the alkaloids ditamine, echitenine, echitamine, and strictamine and is used in natural medicine for stomach and digestive issues.
Cassytha pubescens is a hemiparasitic vine species in the Laurel family. It has been called Devil’s Twine and Spilled Devil’s Twine and rarely as Devil’s Guts. This vine grows as a photosynthetic stem that twines around itself and around the branches of its host like wrapped twine. The small fruits are edible.
Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) or wild Chervil is known as the Devil’s Oatmeal. It is related to other diverse members of Apiaceae, such as common parsley, carrot, hemlock and hogweed. It is often confused with Daucus carota which is known as Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot, also a member of the Apiaceae. It is edible but not too appetizing and most people consider it an invasive species, with no medicinal use.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is a perennial herb, also part of the Nightshade family, which has a lengthy reputation in the world of witchcraft. The foliage and berries are both toxic and can cause hallucinations and death depending on the quantity ingested. Belladonna has been used for cosmetics, medicines, and as a poison. It’s known by many names including Devil’s Cherries, Devil’s Berries and Devil’s Herb.
The beautiful black bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) can be found wild in Western Africa and Southeast Asia in the rain forests. These plants are grown mainly for their flowers, which typically emerge during the warmest months of the year and then will produce up to 8 long lasting flowers over the course of a single season. They are also referred to as Devil’s Flower and Devil’s Tongue.
Lobelia tupa is as an abortifacient, and a hallucinogen, which may explain one of its common names, Tabaco del Diablo (Devil’s Tobacco). Ironically, this plant has been used as a counter effect herb on nicotine addiction because of alkaloid Lobeline, a nicotinic agonist. Tupa leaves have also been found to contain chemicals that act as a respiratory stimulant. As expected, the leaves of this plant are smoked, giving the user a narcotic-like high.
False Hellbore (Veratrum californicam) more commonly known as Indian Poke plant has also been called Devil’s Bite and Devil’s Tobacco. Native Americans used the dried roots to topically treat bruises, sprains and fractures, but only after carefully harvesting them in fall after a freeze when they are less dangerous. Chewing very small parts of the root helps to relieve stomach pain.
Wild Buckwheat (Polygonum convolvulus L.), sometimes called bindweed is known as the Devil’s Tether. The Polygonum genus contains about 130 species of flowering plants. The seeds are dried and ground for consumption.
The shrub found in Australia and called Lambertia formosa is also called Mountain Devil. It is covered in thick red flowers that can be pulled off and used for hydration. Pull them off and drink the sweet honey-flavored nectar from the bottom. The flowers hold profuse amounts of nectar and are pollinated by honey eaters. It gains its common name from the horned woody follicles, which were used to make small devil-figures.
Devil’s Paintbrush (Hieracium aurantiacum) is a vibrant wildflower with orange flowers. Devil’s paintbrush earns its name from its brilliant color and prolific reproduction; it is a highly visible and extremely pesky weed that can overcome croplands and irritate farmers. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant for it’s color.
Devil-in-the-Bush (Nigella damascena) is a garden flower and a member of the buttercup family. It produces enmeshed white, blue and purplish flowers in needle-lobed bracts. It originates from Eurasia but has been introduced across northern North America and some parts of Canada.
Elephant’s Foot (Elephantopus tomentosus) is a species of flowering plants in North America, known as Devil’s Grandmother. It should be known that Elephantopus scaber, Elephantopus mollis, and Elephantopus tomentosus are often attached to the plants with the same features, they can be all considered as a synonyms. They have shown effectiveness in treatment of cancer, microbial infections, liver ailments and for wound care.
Texas Forsythia (Forestiera pubescens) is known as the Devil’s Elbow. It is usually the first to bloom in the spring; with delicate yellowish-green flowers appear in early February or March. Female plants produce fleshy, blue-black fruits that are an important food source for birds and small mammals.
Cylindropuntia imbricata is a cactus found in the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. The appearance of the plant gives it one of the many nicknames, Devil’s Rope. This is a very thorny cactus which can cause injury to humans and to animals.
The Devil’s Fig (Solanum torvum) is a bushy, erect and spiny perennial plant used horticulturally as a rootstock for eggplant. Grafted plants are very vigorous and tolerate diseases affecting the root system, thus allowing the crop to continue for a second year. It’s also known as the Devil’s Plant. The fruit are used in Thai, Jamaican Lao and Indian cuisine.
The Devil’s Plant (Solanum capsicoides) is a native of South America and grows as a perennial bush or small tree. It has also been called Devil’s Apple.
The giant Devil’s Fig (Solanum chrysotrichum syn. Solanum hispidum) is a member of the Solanaceae family. They are used by traditional healers for dermatological concerns. Considered a weed in most areas and an invasive species in others. The giant devil’s fig is very similar to devil’s fig. These are the main differences: the giant devil’s fig has moderately large to very large leaves with numerous moderately deep to very deep lobes. Its relatively large white flowers have relatively large sepals. The dense star-shaped hairs on its new growth are reddish in color. Conversely the devil’s fig has moderately large leaves with several slight to moderately deep lobes. Its relatively small white flowers have small sepals. The dense star-shaped hairs on its new growth are whitish or yellowish in color.
Aralia spinosa is affectionately known as the Devil’s Walkingstick or Devil’s Walking Stick. It get’s it’s name from the stout, sharp spines found on its leaf stalks, stems and branches. This is a large, upright, suckering, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 10-15’ tall, but infrequently grows as a small flat topped tree to as much as 35’ tall.
Aconitum is a genus of over 250 species of flowering plants belonging to the family Ranunculaceae. hese herbaceous perennial plants are chiefly native to the mountainous parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Most species are extremely poisonous. Aconitum is also known as Devil’s Helmet.
Abroma augusta is a species of the flowering plant in the genus Abroma, family Malvaceae. Commonly known as Devil’s Cotton and Ulat kambal, it is a small tree with downy branches. Its flowers are very small and either purple, dark red or yellow. Its leaves are ovate to oblong and pointed. Devil’s cotton is an aid for various health ailments. The bark of the root helps in the regulation of menstrual periods.
If it did actually exist, the Devil’s Garden would certainly be colorful, diverse, and deadly. The number of plants associated with the Devil, in name only, is truly amazing. I’m sure that there are some I’ve forgotten or others which might fit on a technicality, such as Mandrake being called Satan’s Apple or the Lucifer Crocosmia. In the spirit of the process, I’ve left them out, but they are not forgotten.