British Wildlife Wiki

Deadly Nightshade flowers - WWC Archives

Atropa belladonna, commonly known as Deadly nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant which is native to Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. The foliage and berries are toxic, containing tropane alkaloids. These toxins include scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine which, while having legitimate medical uses at low doses, induce delirium and hallucinations when ingested in sufficient amounts. Atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine are derived from the plant for use as pharmaceutical anticholinergics.


Atropa belladonna is a branching herbaceous perennial, often growing as a subshrub, from a fleshy rootstock. Plants grow to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) tall with 18 centimetres (7.1 in) long ovate leaves. The bell-shaped flowers are tyrian purple with green tinges and faintly scented. The fruits are berries, which are green ripening to a shiny black, and approximately 1 centimetre (0.39 in) in diameter. The berries are sweet and are consumed by animals that disperse the seeds in their droppings, even though the seeds contain toxic alkaloids. There is a pale yellow flowering form.


The fruits of Deadly Nightshade - WWC Archives

Atropa belladona is rarely used in gardens, but when grown it is usually for its large upright habit and showy berries. It is often found in shady, moist locations with limestone-rich soils. It is considered a weed species in parts of the world, where it colonizes areas with disturbed soils. Germination of the small seeds is often difficult, due to hard seed coats that cause seed dormancy. Germination takes several weeks under alternating temperature conditions but can be sped up with the use of gibberellic acid. The seedlings need sterile soil to prevent damping off and resent root disturbance during transplanting.