Bare Beware! The Most Dangerous Flowers and Plants for Naked Gardeners

cactus shaped like a penis

Can World Naked Gardening Day be dangerous? Even deadly? You bet your asp! According to legend, the snake that Cleopatra used to send herself to the realm of the dead came in a basket of flowers or figs. Something like that hiding in your garden is almost enough to make you think of creating Full Body Armor Gardening Day. 

Maybe that example is a little over the top, but there are plenty of flowers and plants packing punishment for drooping derrieres and various dangling body parts. 

So, before you peel off your clothes and peel away your inhibitions, keep your eyes peeled for an ambush!

Pretty, Delicious, and Dangerous

Rose with Thorns

Photo Credit: Rose and thorns / Coernl / Pexels

Do you know what botanists call the thorns on rose stems? Prickles. That word should be enough to tell any naked gardener of one gender to swing through the garden with an abundance of caution. The protective growth on a rose stalk is not a true thorn, which is good because prickles are easier to remove than thorns. Still, the distinction between thorn and prickle may not matter, depending on where you get pricked.

At least with roses, you can easily see the threat. Other plants are more insidious. Raspberries lull you into a false sense of security, offering a tempting treat surrounded by a fuzzy little growth on the stem. Keep bare appendages away! That fuzz is a concentration of sharp thorns from a bush that knows how to protect its berries. You’re better off planting coneflowers, or something else to add color to your yard.

Fail Means Impale

Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit
Photo Credit: Prickly pear cactus fruit / Ken Bosma / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bloodletting was an important sacrificial rite among the nobility of some ancient Mesoamerican cultures. Stingray barbs, stone knives, and cactus needles were used to draw small amounts of blood from fingers, tongues, lips, ears, and, yes, genitals. 

Most modern-day gardeners are probably not anxious to follow the example of Mayan kings, but a naked gardener’s exposed spine can be an inviting target for cactus spines.

Cactus varieties have long been popular houseplants. Some, like the Christmas cactus with its soft spines, are fairly toothless. Others, like a barrel cactus, bishop’s cap, or (here’s that word again) prickly pear, can make you shrivel up a bit when you think of where you might get stabbed. Many a cactus has been on the receiving end of this painful scream; “You succulent!”

Don’t be Rash

Arm Rash - Someplants cause rashes
Photo Credit: Skin rash / WikiRigaou / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Skin may be in on Naked Gardening Day, but yours could sport some interesting body art, depending on what you grow and how you handle it. Is that a raised map of the Upper Peninsula on your lower cheeks? Skin irritations, itchy rashes, and even weeping blisters can result from the defense mechanisms employed by many common plants and flowers. 

That harmless ficus plant isn’t so harmless if you come into contact with its milky sap. The itch that results gets worse with exposure to the sun. English ivy may be a popular ornamental, but its leaves can cause severe contact dermatitis. Desert rose is a popular houseplant, but its sap is still used as arrow poison in parts of Africa. 

Even the asparagus in the garden can cause symptoms like a runny nose along with itchy and red skin. Researchers say an allergy to asparagus probably means you’re also allergic to other members of the same family; onions, garlic, leeks, and chives.

Shut Your Trap

Photo Credit: Venus fly trap / NicholasDeloitteMedia / Pixabay

It’s a Broadway classic and a Hollywood hit. A plant from outer space named Audrey II devours people. Could a misplaced piece of bare flesh really trigger a Little Shop of Horrors scenario for a naked gardener? Yes, and no. 

The closest thing we have to Audrey II is the Venus flytrap. It’s a carnivorous flower, and a human body part resting on its leaf can trigger the jaw-like structure to snap shut on the invader. But, since the “trap” is typically about an inch long and only powerful enough to hold an insect, even your most tender bits are in no danger, easily freed from the prospect of ghastly dismemberment — and worse social media posts. 

If a naked gardener really wants to live dangerously, there’s Amorphophallus titanum, better known as the corpse flower. It won’t hurt anyone, but its “decomposing body” stench could give the neighbors something besides a little nudity to complain about.

Main Photo Credit: Martin Wahlborg / iStock

Pat Woodard

Pat Woodard

Pat Woodard is a freelance writer who takes occasional breaks from high country hikes in Colorado to chase golf balls, rainbow trout, and full-bodied red wines. He's also a longtime radio and television broadcaster, documentary producer, and runner-up on “Jeopardy.”