Deadly Nightshade has a Beautiful, but Deadly Flower

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

The other day I ran across a pretty and delicate little flower in my garden I didn't remember planting.

Actually, I admired it for two days, meaning to look it up in one of my reference books, but got lazy and reached out on Facebook instead. 

At first, FB folks were cautiously clueless, so I went to work, deciding to google something I thought it might be. 

Yep, my instincts were  correct.  It's Deadly Nightshade, and the entire plant is harmful, in spite of its good looks. I had seen it in it's leaf and berry stage, but never flowering until this.

One of my gardening buds, said:  "Yes, Nightshade pops up all over the place in OP. It's beautiful but highly toxic to pets. Take a look at the foliage, so you can get it before the flowers or berries show up." 

After that, I dug a little deeper and found that this herbaceous perennial makes its appearance in a yard from early to late summer, and more formally is called Atopa belladonna (Deadly Nightshade).  The root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching, 

It's leaves are oval, and the bell shaped flowers can appear brownish, purplish or greenish...and are pretty. Please don't let it get to the fruiting stage, where the berries are shiny, and turns black when ripe.  Ingesting them is bad, so do keep it away from all kids, too.   

Symptoms of Deadly Nightshade poisoning are dilated pupils, blurred vision, headaches, hallucinations, delirium and convulsions.  

And, as one of the 7 Most beautiful, but Deadly flowers in the world, it can be found in our back yards, and indeed should be pulled out now.

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Reader Comments

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Craig from Oak Park  

Posted: July 13th, 2014 6:51 AM

Also, I want to mention Atropa is not native to the us. I do not know that it has been reported as an invsive plant either. It would haveto be intentionally planted. Atropa has high concentrations of the antichologenic medicine atropine. Also large amounts of scopolamine (used as anti-nausea drug for chemotherapy patients among others). So the real Atropa although deadly gave us one of the oldest life saving medications.

Craig from oak park  

Posted: July 13th, 2014 6:39 AM

This plant is actually not A.belladonna. It is called bittersweet night shade (Solanum dulcamara). While not nearly as dangerous as Atropa it is a nasty invasive weed. It really chokes off native vegitation. Atopa flowers and the plant itself look completely diffetent. Here is a link for wikipedia

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