Reviewed by Fiona Bessey-Bushnell
Have you ever suffered from poison ivy? How about being stung by nettles? (I know this one firsthand – ouch!) Do you have invasive vines such as kudzu in your neighborhood? Mundane plants like these are common household names, and guests to the Wicked Plants exhibit can learn interesting facts about these plants and easily relate.
However, the real focal point of this exhibit highlights strange plants and their associated mayhem.
The Science Museum of Virginia’s newest temporary exhibit, Wicked Plants, displays seventy-five poisonous, carnivorous, or invasive plants inside a decrepit Victorian home. Inspired by Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities, the exhibit is perfect for families with kids of all ages.
Many of the exhibits are hands-on, so guests can get a whiff of pungent, foul-smelling plants, view specimens under a microscope, and search for answers to questions about poisonous plants and foods in the elaborate dining room. In the library, guests can learn a lesson on health playing an interactive computer-based game to test their knowledge of plants and their associated neurological effects on the human body. Guests can also explore their artistic side by drawing surrounding plants or test their knowledge of toxicodendrons in the parlor.
There are plenty of interactive components, including a classic who-done-it mystery, where guests enter a crime scene in the potions laboratory and search for clues about the cause of death for the last remaining residents of the home. This exhibit was one of the highlights for my 9-year-old, as he put his sleuthing skills to work to piece together the mystery. Although tastefully designed and not particularly gory, I did notice one family with a younger crowd (a few under four) quickly skip that portion of the exhibit.
However, my son’s absolute favorite part of Wicked Plants was the weaponry artifacts, including blowguns with poisonous darts. “Who knew how to invent this weapon in the first place?” He asked. “And how did they know the poison would work on their victims? That is pretty epic.” The exhibit kept my active 9-year-old engaged for almost an hour. Guests of all ages will appreciate this exhibit. Younger children can enjoy most portions of the exhibit with guidance.
So pack the aloe and hydrocortisone and head on over to the Science Museum of Virginia
for an epic experience. You will want to set aside at least forty-five minutes to explore all this enriching exhibit has to offer. The exhibit is open now through May 17. Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30-5 and Sunday 11:30-5. Tickets for Adults (exhibits only) are $11.00. Adults ages 60 and older and children between the ages of 4-12 receive a $1 discount off general admission prices. Children 3 and under are admitted free with a paid adult. Active military receive free admission to exhibits.
(Consider purchasing a Science Museum of Virginia family pass so you can enjoy this treasure as often as you like! You’ll definitely want to spend time at Boost, the interactive fitness challenge exhibit with yoga, tightrope walking, blood pressure and heart rate monitors, a teaching kitchen, and more.)