The Duchess of Northumberland's controversial Poison Garden is officially opening today.

Cannabis, opium poppies, tobacco and the caco plant - the source of cocaine - feature in the garden, which is part of the centuries-old Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.

The drugs will be grown alongside more than 50 dangerous plants in the country's largest public poison garden.

Mind-bending magic mushrooms, opium poppies and seeds will also be cultivated in the garden designed by Belgian Peter Virtz.

Also planned are the poisonous foxglove, deadly nightshade, mandrake, the tobacco plant and wild lettuce tranquilliser.

It will be one of the most exciting features of The Alnwick Garden and will show how plants have poisoned, cured and killed through the ages.

To highlight its hazardous nature the garden's beds are laid in the shape of flickering flames.

Because of the danger the public will be escorted around the walled garden by marshals.

The Alnwick Garden Trust is growing the plants for educational purposes after getting approval from the Home Office.

To ensure that the Poison Garden meets the Government's drug education guidelines the Trust has been working closely with Northumberland County Council and drug workers.

The Duchess of Northumberland, who will open the garden with Northumbria Police Chief Constable Crispian Strachan, stressed it would educate.

"Drugs are a major concern across the country and an emotive issue," she said.

"The Poison Garden will offer a new avenue, outside the classroom, to get people talking about the misuse of drugs - most of which grow in nature."