I have a man, a have two furry little babies - and I have a lady.
She is a perennial femme fatale and her name is Atropa Belladonna,
more commonly known as 'Deadly Nightshade'.
(Yes, you know the one - they used it in 'Practical Magic'
and Tim Burton's 'A Nightmare before Christmas' :))
Six years ago, when I first moved out to the countryside,
I was really in to growing poisonous plants from seed.
I grew beautiful, night blooming Daturas and had a great specimen
of Kangaroo Apple for a few years (before the Swedish winter claimed him).
But being a novice, I was disappointed at the slow growing Belladonna
with her few small blossoms. I harvested her berries and seeds for fun,
but when that first season was over I threw her out and didn't give it another thought.
Then, a few years later, right inside the wall of the old dilapidated green house
a plant with big leaves started growing. The first time I saw them I think
I pulled them out, thinking they were weeds. The next year they were back
and out of curiosity I let them grow. It wasn't long before they shot thick stalks,
and somewhere in the back of my mind a light switched on: "Ah - Belladonna!"
That second year she started pushing up several of the stones in the walkway.
Happily I removed a few to give her more room. She probably grew from a stray seed,
and letting her grow in the ground, inside the protected green house,
she quickly became a big beautiful bush. The third year I had to start hacking off
and pulling up her roots, to stop her from completely taking over.
Picture taken today: One of the lady's flowers is about to blossom
Contrary to what some Americans think, Belladonna does not have
purple flowers and red berries. That would be the Solanum Dulcamara,
or 'Woody Nightshade'. Belladonna has modest bell-shaped brownish flowers
that after bloom turn in to shiny pitch black berries. And what really separates this lady
from her wannabes, what makes her really deadly, is that her berries are sweet.
Almost every lethal case of Belladonna poisoning recorded has been a young child
eating tons of berries, but the berries are actually the least poisonous part of the plant.
When you pop them in your mouth they are really sweet and juicy,
but as you start to chew you notice they are packed with
tasteless, sometimes slightly bitter, seeds. I know, I've tried them.
Unless you are looking for hours of dry mouth and palpitations,
I don't recommend them. For anyone out there looking for a 'high':
Belladonna doesn't really work as a hallucinogenic drug.
Any poison that causes high fever and organ failure will make you hallucinate
- but not until you are actually dying. On the other hand,
the roots I pulled up today are probably enough to kill 20 grown men.
Anyone up for a cup of 100% ecological infusion? ;)