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October 2009 - Hallowe’ed Costumes

Hallowe'ed Costumes
So, you're in a bit of a bindweed about what to wear this year and you have to go out trick-or-treating to make ends meet. You can't go wrong with the latest trend to go green. No, not Frankenstein or Creature from the Black Lagoon - go as a scary plant. And it need not be green in colour. You could achieve the look of crispy black-eyed Susans which is a hot trend this year.
A few tips to remember – aliens or non-native plants, shrubs, and trees will always be more threatening, i.e., scarier, than native (even if you include ragweed or poison ivy in the mix). Choose a parasitic, noxious weed or carnivorous plant. Perennials with their staying power are much scarier than annuals or biennials. You may want to pack a canister of pepper spray to ward off unwanted advances from squirrels, raccoons, dogs and anything else that might want to mount a tree. Be warned, you will always get a party-spoiler who may come as a canister of herbicide.
Check out our list of Thirteen (13) suggestions. Hope you're not superstitious.
1. Be an alien, e.g., dog strangling vine (Cynanchum sp.), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), smotherweed (Bassia), patch of lawn, or a “Frankenstein” plant – a GMO or cobbled together mish-mash from some of the worst, e.g., goutweed (Aegopodium sp.) with tendrils from a very long DSV. Periwinkle (Vinca sp.) capes are all the rage. Wear a Norway maple (Acer platanoides) outfit and accessorize with black spot. A really Fab-acean costume would be a bank catclaw (Acacia redolens).
2. For purists, go native with Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), or as a creature from the Black Lagoonweed (Ambrosia grayi). Won't you be poplar! If red looks better on you, try the patriotic bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) or the autumn version of Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). You will look stunning!
3. Who says that you have to give up the ghost? For a traditional look, dress as the native ghost plant or corpse plant a.k.a. Indianpipe (Monotropa uniflora) (check out the Scoop header of this issue). A great effect would be to go as a grouping of various heights. Old sheets that you use to protect your potage from the frost or left over white sheets from last Hallowe'ed would suffice to do the whole family.
4. You could be the Atropa bella-donna of the ball! Choose any member of the Solanaceae (Potato family) – indeed, dress the entire family as members of the nightshade family with Mr.& Mrs. Potato Head, which are plant-based Frankensteins made palatable for the youngsters, and add a few other deadly nightshades by outfitting the kids as a tomato, green pepper, and jalapeno pepper (for a real hotsy-totsy costume).
5. For the young-at-heart, go as a seedy character with the super-sized seed pods like the ones in the movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (no doubt, patterned after milkweeds – doubly ‘scary' because they are supposedly ‘noxious' weeds). You could also make a statement about climate change and mutations.
6. For the nostalgic, dress as an endangered species like our native chestnut (Castanea dentata) or elm (Ulmus rubra, U. thomasii). For large specimens of U. americana use an umbrella for the crown.
7. On a more contemporary theme, tree-huggers can go as a grove of pumpkin ash (Fraxinus profunda). In subsequent years, you could go as a ghost of any ash tree as they'll all be gone when the emerald ash borer is finished with them.
8. Go as a gobblin' plant, something carnivorous like the purple pitcherplant (Sarracenia purpurea) or a member of the Sundew family (Droseraceae), e.g., the Venus fly trap (Dionaea miscipula). At the party, if your spouse chastises you for eating everything in sight, you have an excuse. Just blame it on the costume.
9. To really frighten - go as any tasty, native hardwood attacked by the Asian longhorn beetle. A more natural effect would be to dress as a tree hit by lightning. Pileated Woodpecker holes, anyone?
10. More traditional themes usually include witches. You could attempt a fungus costume. Make a witch's broom out of cut up balsam fir (Abies balsamea) twigs and add chickweed (Cerastium sp.) as the secondary host.
11. For an extremely gruesome look, think of costumes depending on an appropriate occupation. Some costumes work particularly well if you are on a limited budget. If you are unfortunate enough to work for the City's Department of Municipal Licensing & Standards, consider Death's black robe and scythe combo, which will involve no monetary outlay, as you have a whole whack of them already hanging in your closet/wardrobe. Outfit yourself as an arborist yielding pruning shears with plant sap dripping off the blades, or wield a cross-cut saw, chainsaw, shovel, or trowel.
12. Grow as a parasitic plant with an innocuous name like hedge false bindweed (Calystegia sepium). Since it is Hallowe'ed, refer to it by one of its other names, like devil's guts, devil's hair, hellbine, strangleweed or witch's hair. This works well as a costume for a close couple acting as parasite and host of the party. The parasite would have orange tendrils to wrap around the outside of the host, dressed as a green plant, and haustorial roots would be attached discretely under the host's clothing. This could prove awkward for bathroom breaks, so make the tendrils and roots of sufficient length. A nice, final touch would be to add the parasite's original root which should be left withered and dangling.
13. Go as a compost bin filled with freshly-killed plant material. To avoid nasty looks and comments, save the composter with rotting material for the front yard to replace the typical gravestone scene (ignore this if you are a seasoned composterer who gets the mix right and always has sweet smelling compost).
More costume suggestions:
Introduced species
witch's moneybags (Hylotelephium telephium)
bloodwoodtree (Haematoxylum campechianum)
killer alga (Caulerpa taxifolia)
bats in the belfry (Campanula trachelium)
crested wartycabbage (Bunias erucago)
spiritweed (Aegiphila sp.)
devil's horsewhip (Achyranthes aspera)
devil's beggartick (Bidens frondosa)
devilsbit (Succisa pratensis)
henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule)
devil in the bush (Nigella damascene)
devil's horsewhip (Achyranthes aspera)
devil-tree (Alstonia macrophylla)
rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea)
devil's grass (Cynodon dactylon)
creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
witchweed (Striga sp.)
goutystalk nettlespurge (Jatropha podagrica)
Native species
rush skeletonplant (Lygodesmia juncea)
poverty rush (Juncus tenuis)
mealy goosefoot (Chenopodium incanum)
fetid goosefoot (Chenopodium graveolens)
nitbearing lipfern (Cheilanthes lendigera)
gall of the earth (Prenanthes trifoliolata)
creeping burhead (Echinodorus cordifolius)
poverty weed (Monolepsis nuttalliana)
panicgrass/witches hair/witchgrass (Panicum capillare)
stinging nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. gracilis)
death camas (Zigadenus venenosus)
skeletonleaf bur ragweed (Ambrosia tomentosa)
creeping spiderling (Boerhavia spicata)
hairystem spiderwort (Tradescantia hirsuticaulis)
scareweed (Baptisia simplicifolia)
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