Horticultural horror  

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“A bare, leafless creeper was flowered with the ears of a delinquent guardsman…. Some of the salver-like blossoms bore palpitating hearts, and certain smaller blossoms were centered with eyes…”--The Garden of Adompha (1938) by Clark Ashton Smith


"Bewildered, Des Esseintes looked on and listened to the cacophonous sounds of the names: the Encephalartos horridus, a gigantic iron rust-colored artichoke, like those put on portals of chateaux to foil wall climbers; the Cocos Micania, a sort of notched and slender palm surrounded by tall leaves resembling paddles and oars; the Zamia Lehmanni, an immense pineapple, a wondrous Chester leaf, planted in sweet-heather soil, its top bristling with barbed javelins and jagged arrows; the Cibotium Spectabile, surpassing the others by the craziness of its structure, hurling a defiance to revery, as it darted, through the palmated foliage, an enormous orang-outang tail, a hairy dark tail whose end was twisted into the shape of a bishop's cross."--À rebours (1884) by Joris-Karl Huysmans

Roots of a Tetrameles nudiflora tree  at an abandoned temple in Cambodia
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Roots of a Tetrameles nudiflora tree at an abandoned temple in Cambodia

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Horticultural horror is a term of art coined in the 20th century.

Examples of horticultural horror can be found in Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror, especially in the description of the narrator, but also in other passages:

"Finally we reached the skirt of a thick wood those trees were intertwined in a tangle of tall, inextricable lianas, parasitic plants, and cacti with monstrous spines."

Lovecraftian horror is also big on horror involving plants, mushrooms and slime mold. In the "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936) we read:

"In a few of the terrace and roof-top gardens were larger and more blossoms of most offensive contours and seeming to suggest artificial breeding. Fungi of inconceivable size, outlines, and colours speckled the scene in patterns bespeaking some unknown but well-established horticultural tradition. In the larger gardens on the ground there seemed to be some attempt to preserve the irregularities of Nature, but on the roofs there was more selectiveness, and more evidences of the topiary art."

Also in this category is the story The Garden of Adompha (1938) by Clark Ashton Smith, the story of a king who maintains a gruesome garden sown with human limbs grafted onto plants. Also, the triffids presented in John Wyndham's book, The Day of the Triffids, are plants which can uproot themselves, move, and can kill with a poisonous, whip-like tail.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Horticultural horror" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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