A Very Botanical Halloween

This year we kicked the jack o' lanterns to the curb, sent the mums to the compost heap and took a slightly different approach to fall decor. The wonderful thing about plants is that they're always ready and willing to sacrifice a limb in the name of good, clean halloween fun. Seeds, cuttings, leaves and flowers are all fair game, whether you're going for spooky or subtle. I know it's a little late to post Halloween ideas, but better late than never!

If you like to get a reaction from your Halloween decor, it's all about taking things out of context. We have a lot of fun assigning the bits and pieces of plants with improbable names like 'dead man's fingers' and 'pressed snake specimens,' displaying them around the house lit by candlelight.

Pressed Eel Specimens

These flattened and preserved eels are really just the stems of an epiphyllum cactus that I've rooted in water. They were stems that had gotten floppy and weak, so I decided to try rooting them in water before giving up on them. You could alternately call them giant tapeworms, I suppose.

Dead Man's Fingers

These are the propagules (rooted seeds) of red mangroves that we collected from the beach. We used these for a Halloween party a couple of years ago before they rooted and doubled in size. They were left out in a frost over winter, effectively making them into dead mangrove fingers.

Wart of Giants

These are the seeds of a South American tree by the name of Sacoglottis amazonica. Their common name in Spanish is 'cojon de burro' and is even more disgusting than the name I've assigned. These seeds were collected from the beach as drift seeds and placed on a flat bed scanner for their close up.

Frog Bones

No frogs were harmed in the making of this plant. This is a type of epiphytic cactus (like epiphyllum) with stem segments that closely resemble bones. Green bones. They even tend to fall to pieces when stressed by receiving too little or too much water, creating a boneyard of stems on the soil's surface. I usually remove them to root elsewhere! This photo was made extra spooky by staging the plant against a lit up lamp shade.

Medusa's Locks

These spiky and snakelike stems belong to Huernia, a relative of the common milkweed and the not so common carrion flower, another creepy plant. My wife doesn't like this plant because it looks creepy, so what better reason to incorporate it into your Halloween decor?

Eye of Golem

While they do resemble stone eyes, these are actually the seeds of Caesalpinia bonduc, a spiny shrub related to dwarf poinciana that grows near the shores of South Florida and the West Indies. The seeds often make their way to the ocean and drift as far as Scandinavia before landing far from home.

If you prefer to simply celebrate the changing of the seasons, simple displays of foraged pinecones, seeds and branches can create an engaging indoor landscape within the confines of a single tabletop. Here I've combined a scattering of miniature pumpkins with some sea beans (Entada gigas) that we've collected from the beach over the years.

Bare branches in vases of water always look elegant, but the look can easily be adapted for fall when you add a dash of colorful leaves around the base, mimicking the fallen leaves of nature. Just replace the leaves as they lose their color, and the display will look fresh all season long.

Bat flower is also a natural addition to Halloween decor.


  1. Steve, you are so creative! Love the mangrove roots...great idea for displaying in a vase.

  2. Thanks Susan! last time we used a rectangular metal planter and it also worked nicely. Once these ones get rooted I'll probably just set them free down south.

  3. LOL! Best post ever. You are one of the reasons I finally cranked up the old google reader again, I just love your blog.

  4. You made my day! I wish there was an easier way to keep track of blogs besides google reader, or maybe i just need to clean house and stop following blogs i don't read. I use Pulse on the iPad and that works pretty well!


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