Atropa belladonna L. Deadly Nightshade Solanaceae (Nightshade Family)

Europe, North Africa, Asia


This much-branched perennial herb up to 3 ft (90 cm) tall may be glabrous or pubescent-glandular The ovate leaves attain a length of 8in. (20cm). The solitary, drooping, bell-shaped brown-purple flowers, approximately V/s in. (3cm) long, produce shiny black berries 1Vs-1 iS in. (3-4cm) in diameter. A'l parts of the plant contain potent alkaloids. It grows in thickets and woods on lime soils and is naturalized especially near old buildings and hedges.

It is believed that Belladonna figured as an important ingredient in many of the witches' brews of antiquity. There are, of course, numerous records of accidental and purposeful poisoning associated with the Deadly Nightshade.

This plant played a major role in the war of the Scots under Duncan I against the Norwegian king Sven Canute about a. d 1035. The Scots destroyed the Scandinavian army by sending them food and beer to which "Sleepy Nightshade" had been added.

The main psychoactive constituent is atropine but lesser amounts of scopolamine and trace amounts of minor tropane alkaloids are also present. The total alkaloid content in the leaves is 0.4%, in the roots 0.5% and in the seeds 0.3%.

In addition to the usual Belladonna there is a rare, yellow blooming variety (var. lutea) as we'l as little known related kinds. The Indian Belladonna (Atropa acuminata Royle ex Lindl.) is cultivated for pharmaceutical purposes because of its high content of scopolamine. In Asia the Caucasian Belladonna (Atropa caucasia Kreyer) and the Turkmenish Belladonna (Atropa komarovii Blin. et Shal) are found. Belladonna is still cultivated for the pharmaceutical production of atropine

These giant forest lianas are the basis of an important hallucinogenic drink (Ayahuasca) ritually consumed in the western half of the Amazon Valley and by isolated tribes on the Pacific slopes of the Colombian and Ecuado' ean Andes. The bark of Banisteriopsis caapi and B. inebrians, prepared in cold water or after long boiling, may be taken alone, but various plant additives— especially the leaves of Diplop-teris cabrerana, known as Occ Yaje, and of Psychotria viridis— are often used to alter the effects of the hallucinogenic drink.

Both species are ¡'anas with smooth, brown bark and dark green, chartaceous, ovate-lan-CiOlate leaves up to about 7 in. (18cm) in length, 2-3 in. (58 cm) wide. The inflorescence is many-flowered. The small flowers are pink or rose-colored. The fruit is a samara with wings about 1% in. (3.5 cm) long. B. inebrians differs from B. caapi in its thicker ovate, more at tenuate leaves and in the shape of the samara wings. The liana contains MAO inhibitors

Several species of Boletus are involved in the curious "mushroom madness" of the Kuma of New Guinea. Boletus reayi, one of these, is characterized by a hemispherical, strong brownish red cap that is cream-yellow at the periphery; it measures from % to 11/2 in. (2 to 4cm) in diameter. The flesh of the cap is lemon-colored. The stipe varies from orange at the top, to a marbled green and gray-rose in the middle, to a green at the base. The spores, which are elongated ellipsoidal, have a yellow membrane but are olive-colored within.

b manicus is a well-known species that, as its name implies, has somewhat toxic prop erties, (mania = insanity). Hallucinogenic properties have not yet been proven.


Srugrr.ansia aurea Lagerh. Goiden Angel's Trumpet Solan aceae (Nightshade Family)

Western South America

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