This is as its name suggests a deadly plant, but thankfully unlikely to be mistaken for any edible plants by adults. Its strange flowers hint at an exotic nature but this a native plant. It can be eaten by cows, rabbits, and some birds, but all parts are poisonous to humans, containing the alkoloid atropine. The main hazard is the black almost cherry like berries that can be attractive to young children.
It is a perennial and has a shrubby habit growing up to 2m tall. It prefers calcareous soils in open woodland, field margins and hedgerows, but has been planted extensively outside of its preferred habitat.
|Common Names||Deadly nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna|
|Scientific Name||Atropa belladonna|
The leaves are 5-15cm long staggered along the length of the stems. Oval with pointed ends and asymmetric lobes.
The flowers are a reddish brown colour with green veins, bell shaped, and up to 5cm in length. They are usually held out away from the plant and single.
The structure of the fruit is very similar to tomatoes to which it is closely related, multiple small seeds in a pulp
It prefers calcareous soils in open woodland, field margins and hedgerows, but has been planted extensively outside of its preferred habitat.
Despite its deadly nature deadly nightshade has been used for medicine since ancient times, even being grown as a crop in the 20th century. The name Belladona specifically refers to how juice from the berries was put into ladies eyes to make the pupils dilate and make them more attractive – a property still used in recent times by eye surgeons using a highly refined extract. Despite its use the years there have never been any substantiated safe uses for deadly nightshade and to the contrary many dangerous side effects and risks of death due to misuse.
Thought to be Satan’s plant anyone who stole its fruit was punished by poisoning.