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Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant. The drug atropine is produced from the foliage, which along with the berries are extremely toxic, with hallucinogenic properties.

The species is native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia, and has become naturalized in parts of North America, where it can often be found in shady, moist areas. The name bella donna is derived from Italian and of course means "beautiful woman." It was once used by women to enlarge the pupils of their eyes and to make them gleam.

The bell-shaped flowers are dull purple with green tinges and faintly scented. The fruits are berries, which are green ripening to a shiny black, and approximately 1 cm in diameter. The berries are sweet and are consumed by animals that disperse the seeds in their droppings, even though the seeds contain toxic alkaloids.

It is in the nightshade family (Solanaceate), which it shares with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, jimsonweed, tobacco, worfberry and chilli peppers. The common names for this species include belladonna, deadly nightshade, dwale, banewort, devil's cherries, naughty man's cherries, divale, black cherry, devil's herb, great morel, and dwayberry. It is one of two species to be known as deadly nightshade, the other is Solanum nigrum.

Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants found in the Western hemisphere. All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids.  The berries pose the greatest danger to children because they look attractive and have a somewhat sweet taste.  The consumption of two to five berries by children and ten to twenty berries by adults can be lethal. The root of the plant is generally the most toxic part, though this can vary from one specimen to another. Ingestion of a single leaf of the plant can be fatal to an adult.

The active agents in Belladonna, atropine, hyoscine (scopolamine), and hyoscyamine, have anticholinergic properties. The symptoms of belladonna  poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention,  constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions.  The plant's deadly symptoms are caused by atropine's disruption of the parasympathetic nervous system's ability to regulate non-volitional - subconscious activities - such as sweating, breathing, and heart rate.

The name Atropa is thought to be derived from that of the Greek goddess Atropos, one of the three fates or destinies that would determine the course of a man's life by the weaving of threads that symbolized their birth, events in that life and finally their death; with Atropos cutting these threads to mark the latter.

 

 

Detective Maston Gregory believes that Cynthia has used natural plants to concoct poisons to murder her college  friend Darlene. He needs to discover how and why?  The fact that she is ultra rich is an irritating yet tantalizing motivation. The fact that she is stunningly beautiful adds to his enchantment. The fact that he believes she is a witch could destroy him.
In Deadly Nightshade, novel one of the trilogy, Trephining

 

                                                    RC Westerholm                                      back to Trephining