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Family Fun Day Gives Hands On Experiences to Wicked Plants

Family Fun Day Gives Hands On Experiences to Wicked Plants photo 1/26/2016 3:02:29 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

The new exhibit “Wicked Plants: The Exhibit” immerses visitors into a macabre world where plants hold the power.  Now open at the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, “Wicked Plants” is a delightful experience where guests are introduced to infamous plants that have left their mark on history and claimed many an unfortunate victim.

Saturday, January 30, the museum will hold a free Family Fun Day from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Children and adults will discover which plants are harmful, poisonous or just plain nasty. Jennifer Simek, Greenhouse manager at Texas Tech University, will speak at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. about plants to avoid and bring samples, including carnivorous plants.  There will be plant-themed crafts for kids, and the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” starring Steve Martin and Rick Moranis will be shown at 2 p.m. Master Gardener David Hooten will explain some of the New Mexico native plants to avoid.  Docent-assisted tours will be given throughout the day.

“Families will learn about all sorts of plants that they had no idea could be harmful,” says Mary Lyle, director of education for the museum. “Not only will this Family Fun Day be filled with entertaining activities, but children and adults will also understand which plants to avoid, and which ones to handle carefully.”

“This is one of the most fun exhibits we’ve had at the Western Heritage Museum”, states Darrell Beauchamp, director of the museum.  “We think visitors will be surprised at the vegetation that can be dangerous to humans.  Plus the experience of walking through the exhibit is unique – since it all takes place in a Victorian haunted house.”

Visitors enter the exhibition by walking through a decrepit old home, where they are introduced to the crime family of the plant world, the deadly Nightshades. A veritable rogue’s gallery features portraits of these intriguing characters who beguile unsuspecting victims. In the conservatory, weeds of mass destruction have taken over, while a crime scene in the potions laboratory teaches that things aren’t always what they seem, especially in the plant world.

A supper served in the dining room could be a visitor’s last. Guests will discover that even the most mundane foods can be poisonous under certain circumstances. The terrible toxicodendrons in the parlor can really get under a visitor’s skin. From poison ivy to poison arrows, the collection of weaponry in the hallway uses plant derivatives to immobilize and even kill prey.

The social misfits of the plant world are relegated to the bathroom. Visitors will find botanicals that smell foul, and even some that catch fire. Plants in the yard are on the offensive: some secrete sap, some produce exploding fruit, and some have stems that embed into skin. Unruly and altogether mean, these plants are on the attack.

This new exhibit is inspired by Amy Stewart’s book, “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and other Botanical Atrocities”. The exhibit gives visitors a hands-on experience with some of the world’s most diabolical botanicals—without the risk of intoxication, addiction, dismemberment, or other danger. Menacing interactive displays set in an eerie environment are designed to educate and entertain children and adults with information about some of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations.

Admission is free Saturday for the Family Fun Day, which includes tours through the exhibit. 

For more information, please call the museum at 575-492-2678 or email Mary Lyle: mlyle@nmjc.edu

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About Jennifer Simek

Jennifer Simek is an experienced horticulturist from Lubbock who is manager of Texas Tech’s Department of Plant and Soil Science greenhouse complex.

Prior to joining the Plant and Soil Science staff, Simek worked for Tech’s Department of Biological Sciences for more than eight years as their greenhouse manager. The Lubbock native received her bachelor’s degree in botany and a master’s degree in agribusiness from Texas A&M University.

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