Pensioner mistakenly grows 5ft cannabis plant from spilled bird seed

The woman noticed the plant growing down the side of her driveway

The woman noticed the plant growing down the side of her driveway - Credit: Archant

A pensioner has told of her experience unwittingly growing cannabis in her front garden during lockdown. 

The plant grew to over 5ft tall and is thought to have sprouted from bird seed. 

The Felixstowe woman, 81, first noticed the unusual looking plant in early April.  

She said: “It was down the side of the driveway, in this little strip of soil between the concrete and the fence.

The plant (seen to the left) started growing in April, and was well looked after by the curious grandmother

The plant (seen to the left) started growing in April, and was well looked after by the curious grandmother - Credit: Archant

“I thought it looked a bit funny, but I like growing unusual plants, so I made a point to give it an extra splash with the watering can when I went out each day. I was intrigued to see what it grew into.” 

As the plant grew larger, the 81-year-old started to feel suspicious of the plant. 

“There weren’t any flowers on it, just these weird little buds. I asked some of the family if it could be cannabis, because you never know what’s been blown over the fence, but they just laughed.” 

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However, the family took her fears seriously in July, when the plant had grown around 3ft tall. 

The plant quickly grew, leaving the woman flummoxed as to what it could be

The plant quickly grew, the woman flummoxed as to what it could be - Credit: Archant

“They came round for a look, and they were really shocked. My granddaughter picked a leaf and sniffed it, and said it made her feel all seasick. Silly girl, I told her not to.

“We looked it up on the internet, and it turned out other people have had the same thing happen to them. Apparently, seeds come in bird food, which makes sense because I buy it by the sack.” 

The plant continued to grow, until it towered over the woman who is 5ft 6in. 

“It was a bit of a laugh at first, but I was starting to worry. We've got a retired police inspector living opposite and a sergeant down the road.” 

The final straw came when the village postman knocked on her door. 

“He was trying to figure out if I knew what I was growing. My husband said, for God’s sake woman, we need to get rid of this thing sharpish before we get weirdos banging on the door wanting you to sell them something. 

“He said 'you’re going to turn us into the talk of the cul-de-sac'. 

Before it was dug up, the pensioner says it grew to be at least 5'6"

Before it was dug up, the pensioner says it grew to be at least 5'6" - Credit: Archant

“We had the grandchildren round again to dig it up, since it had grown right into the concrete and I couldn’t get it to budge. 

“We put it through the garden shredder, took it down the dump, and that was the end of that."

Suffolk police's controlled drug liaison officer Robin Pivett said the force had not seen a reported case of this nature for many years.

The officer said: "Occasionally bird seen can be contaminated, however producers of bird seed do all they can to prevent this happening, often by denaturing hemp seed. There are one or two reports each year from around the country; the weather would also be a factor.

"The circumstances of each case reported would be considered. If indeed a genuine accident, we would not prosecute." 

The officer said that shredding was the best means of disposal. 

The grandmother-of-four is unsure where exactly she purchased her birdseed from but a spokesman for animal feed wholesaler Copdock Mill explained how the plant came to grow in the garden.

A representative said: “Hemp would be a more accurate description of the plant than cannabis.”

Cannabis and hemp are both part of the same family of plants, but hemp is defined as having levels of 0.3% or lower of the psychoactive compound THC. 

The Copdock Mill spokesman said: “Hemp seed is used in the production of wild bird seed, but it is highly unlikely that a seed will germinate since they will have been denatured, which is to say, treated with heat. That being said, it is not impossible, as this person’s experience shows, and there have been similar cases in the news.” 

In 2014, a woman from Exmouth also grew a plant reaching five feet, while in 2019, a man contacted BBC Gardeners’ World for help identifying a mystery plant in his garden, which also turned out to be hemp. 

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