A sneak peek inside the newest exhibit in the Florida Museum of Natural History
The last time I visited the Florida Museum of Natural History, located on the University of Florida Campus, they were in the process of installing their latest exhibit: Wicked Plants. I honestly expected it to be a display of Venus Flytraps and other meat-eating vegetation. But I had a chance return and a sneak peek inside the Wicked Plants exhibit and let me tell you, there wasn’t a Venus Flytrap in sight!
Once you step through the entry of the newest exhibit at the University of Florida, you are transported back into a crumbling Gothic mansion- the dying garden is only the beginning of a journey that gets creepier as you keep going. In the kitchen a corpse of an elderly lady is sprawled over a table with a nearby invitation to solve her death. Guests must use the clues and items in the room to figure out why Bella died unexpectedly. Was it murder? Or something even more sinister?
From there you are transported to a dinner party, plates all set out innocently, containing frightful details about the food we take for granted. Bathrooms usually hold peculiar odors, and the one around the corner is no exception. You get the chance to whiff some of the grossest smelling plants imaginable: skunk cabbage and rotting meat anyone? Murder and mayhem ensue in the halls, then it’s on to the decaying parlor room. There’s even a dark cemetery outside if you haven’t gotten your share of creepiness by then.
The amount of information about plants and their wickedness in astonishing: displayed creatively in paintings, set in interactive games, splayed across the plates at a dinner party. Everything from the commonly known, like poison ivy ( and those Venus Flytraps), to the more bizarre. Some plants defend themselves and let off smells (like that rotting meat), stingers (stinging nettles), colors and even noises. Eating way too much of certain raw veggies can give you vampire-like symptoms (light sensitivity, pale skin). Who knew? This walk-through exhibition, funded by the North Carolina Arboretum ( another very cool place to visit) and the Creel-Harison Foundation is inspired by author Amy Smart’s book: Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and other Botanical Atrocities. Copies of Amy Smart’s books are available in the museum gift shop for purchase.
The Wicked Plants exhibit is not for everyone. Due to the creepiness factor and death scene, it may frighten some children. Due to the amounts of reading, it would be hard to read the cool blurbs and watch kids at the same time. I know I could not have visited this exhibit a few years ago, but with teens and tweens who love Halloween-type frights, it was pretty cool. However, if you have little kids and another adult with you, there is a Discovery Room right next door to this exhibit. Filled with interactive games and activities for young kids, tag team with your fellow adult and have one adult watch the younger kids while the other visits the exhibit and then switch. (Don’t leave kids unattended in the Discovery Room though).
Things to Know Before You Go:
- The Florida Museum of Natural History is located on the University of Florida Campus at 3215 Hull Road, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
- The Wicked Plants exhibit is open from May 14th 2016 to January 15th 2017.
- Admission to this exhibit is: $7.50 adults & $4.50 kids 3-17. There are Florida resident and senior discounts. Ask! University of Florida students with Gator 1 cards get in free.
- Museum IS on campus. 20 mph campus speed limit is heavily enforced.
- You can find out more at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s website here.
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