Red spider lilies (彼岸花)

Red spider lilies are called “Higanbana” in Japanese, because they are in bloom around the autumnal equinox (aki-higan). They are native to China and came to Japan a long time ago.

They are toxic plants containing a poison called lycorine. If you accidentally eat it, it causes you nausea and diarrhea and can lead to neuroparalysis and even death. But unless you take a lot of it, it usually doesn’t cause death.

It is said that people planted them on banks, ridgeways between rice fields, and cemeteries in Japan to protect crops and bodies buried in the earth from living things, such as moles, rats, and insects, because such living things hate and avoid their poison.

There are some superstitions about red spider lilies in Japan.
For example, “If you take red spider lilies home with you, your house will catch fire.”
“If you pick red spider lilies, your hands will rot.”
“If you decorate red spider lilies in your house, your parents will die soon.”, and so on.

It is said that these superstitions might have been wisdom to prevent children from getting close to red spider lilies containing a poison. I also have believed from my childhood that I mustn’t touch them.