Did you know:
- Atropa belladonna is the strangest and deadliest member of the tomato family.
- The name Atropa comes from the Greek goddess Atropa – one of the three fates who determine human life and death.
- Belladonna is Italian for “beautiful lady.” This poison has historically been used by women as a cosmetic eye drop to dilate the pupils, making the user appear more desirable.
- Its common name is Deadly Nightshade.
- Belladonna has dull green leaves, purple bell-shaped flowers, and shiny black berries that are sweet to the taste.
- All parts of the plant are highly toxic to people, though cattle and rabbits seem to have a natural immunity.
- Deadly Nightshade grows in woods, hedgerows, and wastelands.
- Before the Middle Ages it was used as an anesthetic in surgery.
- Witches were said to mix Deadly Nightshade with other poisons to create a flying ointment (which may have triggered the hallucination of flight).
- According to local folklore, the Lancashire Witches sometimes mixed belladonna berries into blackcurrant or blueberry pies as toxic “gifts” for their enemies!
Stuart, Malcolm. The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism (London: Black Cat, 1987)
Wikipedia: “Atropa belladonna” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna
(Photo: Public Domain)
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