Yes, I bet these berries look so tempting to eat. But I would take a step back and before sinking your teeth into such sweet pleasure, read what you're really getting into....
Yes, I bet these berries look so tempting to eat. But I would take a step back and before sinking your teeth into such sweet pleasure, read what you're really getting into....

“Hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beet, and mad a hatter.”

If you are a part of the small percentage of the United States who has not read or at the very least seen the movie based on the thrilling Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins; you have definitely been briefed on the gripping tragic science fiction novel. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl ages 12-18 from each of the 12 Districts is picked to compete in a televised fight to the death. In this wrenching story, the capital, or government, manipulates the battleground to try and outsmart the contenders with deadly traps. In one memorable scene in which the battle is almost to a conclusion, one contender, Foxface, takes a handful of berries, or also known as “night lock”, to eat and within second’s dies.

Naturally, this is a mistake that could have been made by anyone. The scary realization is that human beings walk around without the understanding that deadly plants that cause extensive damage and even death surrounds us. This plant can be recognized as Atropa Belladonna, or more familiarly, DeadlyNightshade. This species is derived from the practice done by many Italian women in the past who dropped mild extracts of deadly nightshade into their eyes to dilate their pupils. The name “belladonna” is thought to come from this practice, which is translated, to, “beautiful woman”. However, this plant is the farthest thing from enhancing physical beautiful. One brush up against this plant can cause raised pustules on the skin. One step further, the most tempting part of this plant is the black berries. Swallowing one tiny berry can cause rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and finally death (5).
Poor Foxface, had she known these berries were not like most, maybe she would have given Katniss and Peeta a run for their money in the games!
Poor Foxface, had she known these berries were not like most, maybe she would have given Katniss and Peeta a run for their money in the games!

Where is it found? This deadly plant is found across Europe, Asia, and North America (2). This plant can be found flourishing in damp, shady spots where it can grow to about three feet tall, producing pointed, oval shaped leaves and purplish tubular flowers. Coming out of these flowers, one can find the bright black berries budding just asking to be picked and eaten. These berries begin as hard green fruit that then reach full juicy red potential in the fall (2).

Map of where Atropa Belladonna can be found
Map of where Atropa Belladonna can be found


Meet the Relatives: Member of the Solanaceae family, which also includes henbane, mandrake, datura, potato, tomato, tobacco plants, and the Habanero chile pepper (5).

Human Use: Atropa belladonna as stated previously was used by Italian women to dilate their pupils to enhance their appearance. Today, belladonna is perscribed to people who are experiencing severe pain, inflammation, or any kind of infection. Specifically, belladonna in cream form cam be applied to the skin for joint pain. It has also been found that belladonna can help stop bronchial spasms in athma and whooping cough. These are just a few of the many human uses for Atropa belladonna (1).

Wild Card: Although, now you have been briefed about the dangers of nightshade, there are still some victims out there who did not have the convenient pleasure of reading this wiki site before experiencing such perils. Just like Foxface, in the Hunger Games, there have been other traces of nightshade unleashing its deadly power. In real-life examples I have pulled a quote from and individual who has had quite the ride playing a little too closely with such an angry plant.

"With belladonna the entire concept of reality goes down the drain, the very fabric of reality will break down. you can be sitting down watching t.v. at one moment and next you see your dead grandmother next to you on the sofa asking for more tea. I am not kidding here you will not know what is real and what is not. I personally took a bath with over million insects and did not know that this was not real. You can be contacted by numerous alien entites (remember witches at sabbat using among many other things belladona, visiting satan himself) that either can frighten you to death or make you touch an angel. Now enough scaring you. No, not enough you can easily die and I mean easily" (3).

Proceeding with this concept of distorted reality, witches seem to be the largest group of individuals to be oh so familiar with this plant. Atropa Belladonna can cause the sensation of flying, witches would abuse this drug in order to help them fly around on their brooms. It seems that this behavior was actually the doing of drug addicts during that time period. So those not so friendly witches we all learned about growing up were not only mean, but high on drugs flying around on brooms. Such a big symbol in our childhood, these witches were actually influenced by this plant we still see today (4).

This witch seems to have taken some atropa belladonna in order to get to that altitude
This witch seems to have taken some atropa belladonna in order to get to that altitude



Another quick interesting fact I uncovered was that in case you need Atropa Belladonna you are welcome to buy some for $24 on Amazon. Personally, I would rather stay far, far away. Just in case you are interested, I have provided the link below.

http://www.amazon.com/Belladonna-Atropa-Liquid-Extract-120ml/dp/B007PTL94A











Sources:

(1) "Belladonna: MedlinePlus Supplements." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013

(2) "Deadly Nightshade (Solanine)." Deadly Nightshade. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.

(3) Kadura. "Erowid Experience Vaults: Atropa Belladonna - We Weren't Meant to Go There - 1778." Erowid Experience Vaults: Atropa Belladonna - We Weren't Meant to Go There - 1778. N.p., 13 June 2000. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

(4) Mann, J. "Magic." Murder, Magic, and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992. 76-83. Print.

(5) Stewart, Amy, Briony Morrow-Cribbs, and Jonathon Rosen. Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2009. 31-33. Print.