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PlantFiles: Deadly Nightshade, Belladonna, Devil's Cherry
Atropa belladonna

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Family: Solanaceae (so-lan-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Atropa (AT-row-puh) (Info)
Species: belladonna (bel-uh-DON-nuh) (Info)

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

20 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Perennials

Height:
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)
36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

Spacing:
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Danger:
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Maroon (Purple-Brown)
Brown/Bronze
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Foliage:
Herbaceous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)
8.6 to 9.0 (strongly alkaline)
over 9.1 (very alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds

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There are a total of 9 photos.
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Profile:

4 positives
4 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Neutral spiny1000 On Sep 5, 2008, spiny1000 from Lillestrm
Norway (Zone 5a) wrote:

Although this peculiar plants belong to my favorite plants, I will not recommend it being grown unless you are taking necessary and proper action dealing with this highly poisonous plant.

Opposed to several other poisonous plants, the deadly berries are said to have a rather pleasant taste, thus not scaring away persons eating the berries.

As I now have children, I grow this and other medicinal and poisonous plants in a secure and fenced part of the garden. And of course I teach my children what not to eat-children are able of learning this from quite an early age, but I would of course never take any chances.

Positive paracelsus On Sep 12, 2007, paracelsus from Elmira, NY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Belladonna is not a noxious weed. In fact, I have never seen this plant growing outside of a garden, and I have looked, as it is one of my favorite plants. It WILL get quite large the second year, and its root can then be substantial and hard to pull up (wear gloves when doing that). Although I haven't seen any scientific proof, I suspected this plant caused a nearby rugosa rose to sicken and die. Other plants seem unaffected by its proximity.

The berries are indeed very beautiful--large and shiny. I have heard that they are somewhat sweet, but I believe they are dangerous to ingest, especially for children. A belladonna plant provides an excellent opportunity for adults to teach children never to eat any plant part unless they know for a fact that it is safe to eat, regardless of how good it looks. I believe the site saying that belladonna berries are edible was actually referring to Solanum nigrum, black nightshade (as opposed to A. belladonna = deadly nightshade). The berries of black nightshade can be made into pies. Black nightshade doesn't have the same alkaloids as belladonna, and black nightshade is an aggressive plant--birds love the berries. They seem to leave belladonna berries alone, but chipmunks and other little critters seem to love them and to be unaffected by them.

Belladonna does not have a vining habit. That is Solanum dulcamara (woody or climbing nightshade), which is indeed considered an aggressive plant, although I have never seen it crowd anything out. I have had belladonna seeds volunteer, but not in any mass amounts. Usually more like one or two.

As one poster mentioned, it is easier to germinate this seed by soaking them for 2 weeks in cold water that is changed for fresh daily. This technique seems to help various balky seeds, especially those that have fruits. Once you get it going, plenty of water and a little lime, like from being next to a concrete wall, will produce quite a large plant.

I love the purplish brown flowers of this plant. They actually have a slightly sweet smell up close.

Positive Silphion On May 19, 2006, Silphion from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

A herbacious perrenial, much scorned by the same people who don't realize how moderatly poisonous this plant is in comparison to Castor beans, Aconites and Foxgloves ect...the name Deadly Nightshade certanly isen't good for P.R. According to info on the Horizonherb wedsite the berries are edible while it is actually the seeds that are dangerous; I havn't personally put this to the test. That being said I do keep mine (along with my aconties and foxgloves) in a seperate fenced off part of my yard and handle them with respect.

I allow mine to drop their fruit and have had no problems with them being invasive. I would like to see a pic of Buldog's Belladonna as the description sounds more like Solanum dulcamara than Atropa b.

My belladonnas were reared from seed and I would say they are moderate to easy to cultivate that way...no special requirements though I did take the time to mix in a little gravel and lime into the soil before I planted mine outside (carefull...don't over do the lime)

Positive NiGHTS On May 18, 2006, NiGHTS from Los Gatos, CA wrote:

Belladonna is a great plant, as long as you don't have anyone around who might be tempted to eat the berries and/or leaves, as doing so will result in a trip to the local hospital and/or mortician ;). It can be planted from seed, but the seeds should be cold water stratified for at least two weeks. Seeds can be removed when the berries shrivel up in the fall, or you can simply cut the berry into quarters and plant the following spring. Be sure to wear gloves if handling belladonna and a knife at the same time, or you might end up in the waiting room of the hospital with the berry nibbler.

Belladonna can be grown indoors, but needs frequent water in spring and summer. Watch out for spider mites if kept indoors. I have had my plants for three years, and each spring, the spider mites seem to go for this plant without fail. I'm not sure why they like this plant so much, but they do. Mite attacks turn the leaves brown and halt the entire growth process. Luckily, spraying the entire plant with soapy water every other day seems to prevent/take care of mite problems.

Neutral smiln32 On Aug 30, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Italian ladies used the juice to dilate their eyes to increase their beauty. According to mythology, Atropos, one of the three goddesses of fate, used the berries to cut the thread of life. During the middle ages, people believed it was the favorite plant of the devil. This is not surprising, considering the many wild stories told of this plant. It is a poisonous plant - A peculiar symptom in those poisoned by Belladonna is the complete loss of voice, together with frequent bending forward of the trunk and continual movements of the hands and fingers, the pupils of the eye becoming much dilated.

As every part of the plant is extremely poisonous, neither leaves, berries, nor root should be handled if there are any cuts or abrasions on the hands.

The root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching. It is perennial. The purplish coloured stem is annual and herbaceous. It is stout, 2 to 4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground into three - more rarely two or four branches, each of which again branches freely.

Neutral celesgardens On Jul 19, 2004, celesgardens from Oakhurst, NJ wrote:

I wanted to know if anybody had any experience with growing atropa belladonna from seed. I'm doing so right now, and wanted to know if anyone had any tips. I have about 30 small seedlings growing in a starter container. Took about 6-7 weeks to germinate. If anyone has any information or tips on growing atropa belladonna, please respond.
-thank you

Positive ScottSLC On Jun 3, 2004, ScottSLC from Salt Lake City, UT wrote:

This plant does very well for me, and makes for a nice ornamental in my garden. Since I have no children, I don't really need to worry about the black "cherries" being accidentally eaten. The plants I have tend to be more bush than vine, with large thick stems that branch at the top to make an interesting canopy. The flowers are a dull mauve color and almost look like they are absorbing all the sunlight they can, reflecting back very little light. *I was told by a botanist that the name, Belladonna, which is latin for Beautiful Woman, was given to this plant because women in Italy used to make a tincture from the berries and use the drops in their eyes to dilate their pupils, thereby making them look more beautiful. I also understand that ophthalmologists used to use an extract of this plant to dilate eyes for examination, but now use a synthetic solution.* *The above is for information purposes only! This plant can be very dangerous, like a lot of our garden plants, so I treat it with respect.*

Negative buldog On Oct 20, 2003, buldog from Farmington, NH wrote:

Yes, the berries are very attractive as is the plant, but watch out - this is a highly invasive plant much like bittersweet and difficult to get under control!

Neutral wnstarr On Oct 20, 2003, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Besides being a noxious weed, this is a pretty vining plant. It is really poisonious and should not be grown around small children. It has a vinning habit, climbing up fences and plants to get to the sun. Grows vigorously from any roots left in the ground, had to pull them all out.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Los Gatos, California
Menifee, California
Wilmington, Delaware
Blackfoot, Idaho
Romeoville, Illinois
Cumberland, Maryland
Farmington, New Hampshire
Plainfield, New Jersey
Deposit, New York
Elmira, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Newport, Rhode Island
San Antonio, Texas
Salt Lake City, Utah
Leesburg, Virginia
Anacortes, Washington
Puyallup, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Stanwood, Washington



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