Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pest Control with Poison Plants

My husband is, among so many other wonderful traits, a botanist. He has a madness for bulbs and this has been particularly useful in our war against the gophers.

One bulb in particular, Urginea maritima (Red or Sea Squill), is a potent poison and has been used in the past as a rodenticide. Take that, you nefarious gophers!

Last year, we were gifted with a double armful of Urginea bulbs by a complete stranger at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Here is how we have used them:

  1. Plant a fruit tree.
  2. Dig additional hole and plant an Urginea bulb.
  3. Smile in satisfaction while eating the fruit because the gophers have left the tree unmolested.

The plant has some medicinal utility but is deadly in ruinously small doses. Of additional importance to humans is that a mere touch of the juice from the bulb or its leaves will give you a painful chemical burn. We've warned the kids of the danger and they have respected the distinctive look of the leaves and bulbs ever since.

I hope that others in gopher country take advantage of this inexpensive, attractive natural pest control.


Addendum by Rob:
We have oodles of these bulbs (~100), they are best shipped in the summer when dormant. They have aggressive roots and small bulbs will actually pull themselves down into the ground. So, don't let the cardboard box you moved them in sit on the ground, get wet, and sit around (like he did -L.) or you'll have a spontaneous patch right there.

Photo credit: Squill Flowers/Eran Finkle (Flickr)

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