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Useful Temperate Plants

Atropa belladonna

L.

Solanaceae

+ Synonyms

Atropa borealis Kreyer ex Pascher

Atropa caucasica Kreyer

Atropa cordata Pascher

Atropa digitaloides Pascher

Atropa lethalis Salisb.

Atropa lutescens Jacquem. ex C.B.Clarke

Atropa mediterranea Kreyer ex Pascher

Belladonna baccifera Lam.

Belladonna trichotoma Scop.

Boberella belladonna (L.) E.H.L.Krause

Common Name: Deadly Nightshade

Atropa belladonna
Cultivated plant
Photograph by: Rillke
Creative Commons License
Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna Atropa belladonna

General Information

Atropa belladonna is a herbaceous, perennial plant producing one or more erect, branching stems up to 160cm tall from a taproot;
This species is widely cultivated, especially in eastern Europe, for the medically active compounds it contains. These are used in the pharmaceutical industry to produce a range of medicines[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Known Hazards

The whole plant, and especially the root, is very poisonous and can be fatal. It contains the alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and bellodonnine. Symptoms include fever, rapid pulse, dilation of pupils, hot and dry flushed skin, headache, dry mouth, difficulty of swallowing, burning of the throat, hallucinations and convulsions[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
,
10
Title
Poisonous Plants and Animals.
Publication
 
Author
Altmann. H.
Publisher
Chatto and Windus
Year
1980
ISBN
0-7011-2526-8
Description
A small book, reasonable but not very detailed.
,
19
Title
Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Stary. F.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1983
ISBN
0-600-35666-3
Description
Not very comprehensive, but easy reading.
,
65
Title
A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Frohne. D. and Pfänder. J.
Publisher
Wolfe
Year
1984
ISBN
0723408394
Description
Brilliant. Goes into technical details but in a very readable way. The best work on the subject that I've come across so far.
,
165
Title
The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
Publication
 
Author
Mills. S. Y.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent small herbal.
,
287
Title
Flora of Pakistan
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.efloras.org
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
As of 2006, there is not much information on habitats available, but it is being developed and promises to be an excellent resource.
,
293
Title
Poisonous Plants of North Carolina
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent concise but comprehensive guide to toxic plants that grow in N. Carolina. It lists even those plants that are of very low toxicity, including several well-known food plants such as carrots and potatoes.
]. Even handling the plant has been known to cause problems if the person has cuts or grazes on the hand[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
The plant is particularly dangerous for children since the fruit looks attractive and has a sweet taste[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. The toxins are concentrated in the ripe fruit, and can cause delerium and dilation of the pupils[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
,
287
Title
Flora of Pakistan
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.efloras.org
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
As of 2006, there is not much information on habitats available, but it is being developed and promises to be an excellent resource.
].

Botanical References

17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.

Range

Eurasia - Germany and Britain to Spain east to Ukraine and the Caucasus, to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iran; N. Africa - Morocco, Algeria

Habitat

Woods, thickets and hedges, mainly on calcareous soils[
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
].

Properties

Medicinal Rating *  *  *
HabitPerennial
Height0.90 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusCultivated, Wild

Cultivation Details

The northerly limits for cultivating this plant are about 50 - 55° north and at an elevation between 100 - 200 metres[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
].
Succeeds in any well-drained moisture retentive soil[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
] in sun or partial shade[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. Prefers a calcareous soil[
1
Title
RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956
Publication
 
Author
F. Chittendon.
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Year
1951
ISBN
-
Description
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaced in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).
,
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
,
13
Title
Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Triska. Dr.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1975
ISBN
0-600-33545-3
Description
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
]. When grown as a medicinal plant, the highest levels of the medically active alkaloids are obtained from plants growing on a light, permeable chalky soil, especially when on a south-west facing slope[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
]. The highest concentrations are also formed when the plant is growing in a sunny position and in hot summers[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].
Plants tend to be short-lived[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Slugs are very fond of this plant and have been known to completely remove the outer bark from the stems[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
].

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal

Although it is poisonous, deadly nightshade has a long history of medicinal use and has a wide range of applications, in particular it is used to dilate the pupils in eye operations, to relieve intestinal colic and to treat peptic ulcers[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. The plant can be used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, reducing tremors and rigidity whilst improving speech and mobility[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. It has also been used as an antidote in cases of mushroom or toadstool poisoning[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
].
This is a very poisonous plant, it should be used with extreme caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
]. See also the notes above on toxicity.

All parts of the plant are analgesic, antidote, antispasmodic, diuretic, hallucinogenic, mydriatic, narcotic and sedative[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
,
9
Title
Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Launert. E.
Publisher
Hamlyn
Year
1981
ISBN
0-600-37216-2
Description
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
,
21
Title
The Herb Book.
Publication
 
Author
Lust. J.
Publisher
Bantam books
Year
1983
ISBN
0-553-23827-2
Description
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
,
46
Title
Dictionary of Economic Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Uphof. J. C. Th.
Publisher
Weinheim
Year
1959
ISBN
-
Description
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
,
165
Title
The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism.
Publication
 
Author
Mills. S. Y.
Publisher
 
Year
 
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent small herbal.
,
171
Title
Economic Botany.
Publication
 
Author
Hill. A. F.
Publisher
The Maple Press
Year
1952
ISBN
-
Description
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some detail about the plants it does cover.
,
192
Title
Narcotic Plants
Publication
 
Author
Emboden. W.
Publisher
Studio Vista
Year
1979
ISBN
0-289-70864-8
Description
A lot of details about the history, chemistry and use of narcotic plants, including hallucinogens, stimulants, inebriants and hypnotics.
,
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
]. The root is the most active part of the plant, it is harvested in the autumn and can be 1 - 3 years old, though the older roots are very large and difficult to dig up[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
]. The leaves are harvested in late spring and dried for later use[
7
Title
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Publication
 
Author
Chiej. R.
Publisher
MacDonald
Year
1984
ISBN
0-356-10541-5
Description
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
].

All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
]. The leaves contain on average 0.4% active alkaloids, whilst the root contains around 0.6%[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
]. The alkaloid content also varies according to the development of the plant, being low when the plant is flowering and very high when bearing green berries[
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
]. These alkaloids inhibit the parasympathetic nervous system which controls involuntary body activities. This reduces saliva, gastric, intestinal and bronchial secretions, as well as the activity of the urinary tubules, bladder and intestines[
254
Title
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants
Publication
 
Author
Chevallier. A.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley. London
Year
1996
ISBN
9-780751-303148
Description
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.
].
An extract of the plant has been used as eyedrops. It has the effect of dilating the pupils thus making it easier to perform eye operations[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
232
Title
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Castro. M.
Publisher
Macmillan. London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-333-55581-3
Description
A concise beginner's guide to the subject. Very readable.
]. In the past women used to put the drops in their eyes in order to make them look larger and thus 'more beautiful'[
4
Title
A Modern Herbal.
Publication
 
Author
Grieve.
Publisher
Penguin
Year
1984
ISBN
0-14-046-440-9
Description
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.
,
232
Title
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Castro. M.
Publisher
Macmillan. London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-333-55581-3
Description
A concise beginner's guide to the subject. Very readable.
].

The entire plant, harvested when coming into flower, is used to make a homeopathic remedy[
232
Title
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Castro. M.
Publisher
Macmillan. London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-333-55581-3
Description
A concise beginner's guide to the subject. Very readable.
]. This is used especially in cases where there is localised and painful inflammation that radiates heat[
232
Title
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook.
Publication
 
Author
Castro. M.
Publisher
Macmillan. London.
Year
1990
ISBN
0-333-55581-3
Description
A concise beginner's guide to the subject. Very readable.
]. It is also used to treat sunstroke and painful menstruation[
238
Title
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses.
Publication
 
Author
Bown. D.
Publisher
Dorling Kindersley, London.
Year
1995
ISBN
0-7513-020-31
Description
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.
].

Agroforestry Uses:

This species has been found to be effective in removing PCB's from the soil and detoxifying them[
248
Title
New Scientist
Publication
 
Author
Anderson. A.
Publisher
IPC Magazines Ltd, London
Year
1997
ISBN
0262-4079
Description
A short item on a couple of soil reclamation plants, Atropa belladonna and Solanum nigrum
]. The plant is more effective in doing this if it is infected with the bacterial parasite Agrobacterium tumefaciens[
248
Title
New Scientist
Publication
 
Author
Anderson. A.
Publisher
IPC Magazines Ltd, London
Year
1997
ISBN
0262-4079
Description
A short item on a couple of soil reclamation plants, Atropa belladonna and Solanum nigrum
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germination of stored seed is slow and erratic, usually taking 1 - 6 months at 10°c[
134
Title
Growing from Seed. Volume 2.
Publication
 
Author
Rice. G. (Editor)
Publisher
Thompson and Morgan.
Year
1988
ISBN
-
Description
Very readable magazine with lots of information on propagation. An interesting article on Ensete ventricosum.
,
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of softwood terminal shoots in spring[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].
Root cuttings in winter[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
].

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