Back away slowly. Photo: Longwood Gardens

In what appears to be the first case of its kind, forensic investigators have determined that a gardener missing for two days was consumed by a giant chrysanthemum.

"Human predation by fall-blooming perennials has long been stuff of legend, but never proven until now," says lead investigator, Sam O'Nella. "But the DNA evidence is conclusive. The unfortunate victim is now part of the plant."

The gardener, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin, was last seen pinching a spectacularly mammoth chrysanthemum at the world-famous Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The plant measures an astounding 8 feet tall and 12 feet wide and features 1,509 perfectly placed, uniform blooms that reflect an ancient Japanese training technique called Ozukuri. According to Longwood's Patricia Evans, the mum "is a highlight of the annual Chrysanthemum Festival at Longwood Gardens, which transforms Longwood's 4-acre conservatory into a vibrant visual feast." Now it's a gastronomical feast as well.

Longwood Gardens has one of the largest and oldest chrysanthemum shows in North America. All 13 classes of mums are trained into unusual shapes. There are spirals.

emPhoto: Longwood Gardens/em

There are other-worldly orbs.

emPhoto: Longwood Gardens/em

There are more potential man-eaters.

emAbsolutely do not touch! Photo: Longwood Gardens/em

The Festival runs from now through November 22. You'll see 100,000 chrysanthemum blooms on 16,000 mums. Longwood Gardens is located on U.S. 1 near Kennett Square, PA, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Even if it's raining outside, there are four acres of beautiful plants inside. Grumpy is jealous. He has only three. For more info, go to

O'Nella says investigators have yet to determine a motive for the consumed gardener. However, Longwood horticulturists speculate the plant's enormous size was a factor. One said on condition of anonymity, "A plant that big needs lots of food. We had been feeding it worm castings and kelp meal, but I guess that wasn't enough. A human being contains an abundance of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron -- all essential nutrients for a hungry plant."

Authorities have no plans to prosecute the plant, as no laws exist that make eating a human illegal. Still Longwood workers feel anguish for their colleague's loss. "At least, he's with his mum," said one.