Atropa Belladonna
Common Names: Belladona, Deadly Nightshade, Divale, Dwale, Banewort, Devil's Berries, Naughty Man's Cherries, Death Cherries, Beautiful Death, Devil's Herb, Great Morel, and Dwayberry


As defined in the dictionary Atropa Belladonnais known as a perennial Eurasian herb with reddish bell-shaped flowers and shining black berries; extensively grown in United States; roots and leaves yield atropine.[1] This herbaceous perennial plant is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western Hemisphere. All parts of the belladonna plant contains tropane alkaloids, which is the key to its deadly character. 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. All parts of the plant are analgesic, antidote, antispasmodic, diuretic, hallucinogenic, mydriatic, narcotic and sedative. Therefore, as one of the most baneful herbs, it is used in works concerning death and death's opposite - healing.

Scientific Classification:
Plantae - Plants
Tracheobionta - Vascular Plants
Spermatophyta - Seed Plants
Magnoliophyta - Flowering Plant
Magnoliosida - Dicotyledons
Solanaceae - Potato Family
Atropa L. - Belladonna
Atropa bella-donna L.

Deadly Nightshade

Physical Characteristics

--->The Root/Stem: thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long and branching. It is perennial. The purple colored stem is annual and herbaceous. It is short at about 2-4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground into three branches, each of which again branches freely.
Belladonna Root/Branch

--->The Leaves: dull, dark green color of unequal size(3-10 inches long), the lower leaves solitary, the upper ones in pairs alternately from opposite sides of the stem. One leaf of each pair much larger than the other oval in shape, acute at the apex, with short petioles.
Belladonna Leaf

--->The Flower: (bisexual) appear in June and July, singly, in the axils of the leaves, and continue blooming until early September. They are a dark and dingy purplish color, tinged with green pigment. Rather large at 1 in long, in a pendent, bell-shaped manner, the corolla with five large teeth or lobes, and slightly reflexed.
Belladonna Flower

--->The Fruit: smooth berry, which ripens in September, when it acquires a shining black color in the size similar to a small cherry. It contains several seeds. The berries are full of a dark, inky juice, and are intensely sweet.
Belladonna Berry (Fruit)

--->The Whole Plant: First-year plants grows to only about 1.5 feet in height. Their leaves are often larger than in full-grown plants and grow on the stem immediately above the ground. Older plants attain a height of 3-5 feet and sometimes even 6 feet, the leaves growing about 1-2 feet from the ground. The plant in general is soft, with downy hairs that may occur on the stems and leaves when very young. The veins of the leaves are prominent on the under surface, which is impressed onto the upper surface of the leaf. The fresh plant when crushed lets off a nasty odor, and the leaves have a bitter taste when both fresh and dry.[2]
Belladonna Plant

Who is related to Belladonna?

Solanaceae (Nightshade or Potato Family): 102 genera and nearly 2,500 species
Solanaceae are a family of flowering plants (herbs, shrubs or trees) that include a number of important agricultural crops. Although many are toxic plants, some are edible and even healthy for you. Many members of this family are used by humans, and are important sources of food, spices, and medicine. However, many of its species are rich in alkaloids whose toxicity to humans and animals ranges from mildly irritating to fatal in small quantities.
Vegetables_Sol_Bari2004_Maggioni_Diversità melanzana .jpg

Many of Belladonna's direct relatives are very well known plants and vegetables used by you and me everyday. They are extremely popular within society because they are generally used for considerable economic means as food and drug plants. Such close relatives include: 1. the potato (Solanum tuberosum) 2. eggplant (Solanum melongena) 3. tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) 4. pepper (Capsicum annuum) 5. tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) 6. mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) 7. poisonous jimsonweed (Datura stramonium). Others include more garden ornamentals such as the genera Petunia, Lycium, Solanum, Nicotiana, Datura, Salpiglossis, Browallia, Brunfelsia, Cestrum, Schizanthus, Solandra, Streptosolen, and Nierembergia.[3]
  • "Members of the family are characterized by solitary or clustered flowers with sepals and petals, five in number and fused; five stamens; and a superior ovary, composed of two fused carpels and placed in the flower upon a basal disk of tissue. The style is simple and bears a two-lobed stigma, the pollen-receptive surface. The flowers are usually conspicuous and are visited by insects."[4]

Magical Usage

Throughout the entirety of the Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling introduces real life plants into her magical work of fiction. The plants she introduces are not only famous to witches and wizards, but to muggles as well. Even though it might be hard to believe, the real life plants of Harry Potter are stranger than fiction itself.

"Harry started unwrapping the shopping. Apart from The Standard Book Spells, Grade 4, by Miranda Goshawk, he had a handful of new quills, a dozen
rolls of parchment, and refills for his potion-making kit--he had been running low on spine of lionfish and essence of belladonna."-J.K Rowling (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

As seen in the video below, the student at Hogwarts use many real life plants with "magical powers" in order to make their potions


Deadly Nightshade is one of the many plants seen and used within this epic series. The essence of this plant is a standard part of a Hogwart's students potion making kit. Along withothers such as Devil's Snare, Mandrake, Wolfsbane, Yew, and Peppermint.


Muggle Usage

1. Medicinal Uses-- Even though this plant can have poisonous effects, it can also be used for medical purposes in a wide range of applications. The medicinal properties of Belladonna ultimately depend on the presence of either Hyoscyamine or Atropine. This plant has actually been used in herbal medicines for centuries for many different issues depending upon the certain dosage being administered to the patient. The main uses for the plant include: pain relieving, muscle relaxing, as an anti-inflamitory, for menstrual problems, and motion sickness.[5] Other such remedies that utilize this plant include the following:

  • When locally applied it lessens irritability and pain, and is used as a lotion in cases of neuralgia, gout, rheumatism and sciatica. Small doses allay cardiac palpitation, and the plaster is applied to the cardiac region for the same purpose, removing pain and distress.
  • It is well borne by children and is therefore given in large doses in whooping cough and false croup. For its action on the circulation, it is given in the collapse of pneumonia, typhoid fever and other acute diseases. It is also of value in acute sore throat, and relieves local inflammation and congestion.
  • In modern medicine, it is also used to dilate the pupils in eye operations, to relieve intestinal colic and to treat peptic ulcers.
  • The plant can be used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, reducing tremors and rigidity while improving speech and mobility. It has also been used as an antidote in cases of mushroom or toadstool poisoning.


2. Recreational Drug-- Unfortunately, even though this plant can have dire consequences there are some people who attempt to use this drug for recreational habits. The main reason why people decide to test out this trippy plant is because of its crazy hallucinations and sense of delirium. While some may say the trip starts out with some pleasant hallucinogenic and hypnotic sensations, before long, a babbling, dry mouth, hot skin, and a rash may develop and take over the individuals body. One's eyes will probably experience blurred vision, and a high degree of light sensitivity in addition to those "beautiful lady" enlarged pupils. Even if someone survives this trip it will most likely also consist of a good deal of fear, restlessness, and confusion. If really overdone, vomiting may progress to convulsions and even death from heart failure.[6] (The trip time may vary from several hours up to several days, depending on how much belladonna has been consumed). It is ultimately extremely dangerous because of the high risk of an unintentional fatal overdose.


3. Poison-- During prehistoric times, early man took Atropa Belladonna and used it as a poison on the tips of hunting arrows in order to kill animals. Later in history and literature, deadly nightshade was even used for murder. First, in Ancient Rome, when it was used as a poison by Agrippina the Younger, wife of Emperor Claudius, and Livia, who was rumored to have used it to kill her husband Emperor Augustus. It is seen again in the story of Macbeth when he uses it during a truce to poison the troops of the invading Harold Harefoot, King of England.

4. Folklore-- Relating to the Harry Potter theme, this plant was even used by actual witches in history during the Middle Ages. With a combination of other herbs and plants such as opium poppy and wolfsbane, witches created potions and flying ointments, which they then utilized to help them "fly" when gathering with other witches. Due to its hallucinogenic qualities, similar to those of LSD, these potions helped the witches to feel and believe they were actually flying.[7]


The Entire Solanaceae Family: Members of the Solanaceae family are found throughout the world but are most abundant and widely distributed in the tropical regions of Australia and Central/South America, where about 40 genera are endemic. Very few members are found in temperate regions, and only about 50 species are found in the United States and Canada combined. The genus Solanum contains almost half of all the species in the family, including all the species of wild potatoes found in the Western Hemisphere.

Atropa Belladonna: Widely distributed over Central and Southern Europe, Southwest Asia and Algeria; cultivated in England, France and North America. The chart below only depicts the main areas of distribution within the United States.

USA: California, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington[8]

(Belladonna herb and root are sold and the value depends upon the percentage of alkaloid contained. A wide variation occurs in the amount of alkaloid present. Therefore, it is important to grow the crop under such conditions of soil and temperature (in such regions as shown above) that are likely to develop the highest percentage of the active principle.)

Fashion and Aesthetics

The name Atropa Belladonna is said to be derived from the fact that Italian women at one time made drops from the plant which caused their pupils to dilate and thus made them more seductive and alluring. The name “belladonna” itself does in fact come from the Italian language, meaning “beautiful lady” originating from its usage as a cosmetic for the face and its usage for the eye.[9] Women wished to become more attractive my accentuating their eyes and making them the main focus of their facial features. In order to do so, they found another use for this deadly plant, one that made it famous not only for its toxicity, but also for its aesthetic use in history. However, in modern times it is no longer used for cosmetics because it does cause adverse effects such as minor visual distortions, inability to focus on near objects, and increased heart rate. A prolonged usage can even possibly cause blindness. Despite the hazardous side effects, the concept of making the eye more beautiful has remained in our culture, fashion, and sense of beauty to this day. Many compliment others who have large and "pretty" eyes because it has become an extremely desirable trait. Women spend hundreds of dollars a year on eye make-up (mascara, eye shadow, eye liner, etc) in order to ordinate the eye and to make them "pop". Heavy eye make-up and dark colors are used, and some women even go to the extremes to buy certain colored and designed contacts so that their eyes stand out in a crowd. This trend is exemplified in the below pictures.


"Deadly Nightshade and Related Plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2013.

Grieve, M., Mrs. "Nightshade, Deadly." A Modern Herbal., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Robertson, John. "THE POISON GARDEN website." Atropa Belladonna, Deadly Nightshade. Robbo Services Ltd., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013

"Solanaceae." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2013. <>.

United States Department of Agriculture. Plants Database (Accessed April 21, 2013)

Young, Lawrence. "Drug Text." Belladonna (2010): 1-4. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <>.
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