Atropa belladonna is a large herbaceous perennial that grows to 1-1.5 m tall, rarely 2 m tall, with an erect posture. It has a stem that ranges from purplish to green in colour and is covered in short, fine hairs. Its roots are thick, white in colour, fleshy, and 15 cm or more in length. It has broad leaves, oval in shape, 6-20 cm long, which are alternate or in uneven opposite pairs (one leaf much larger than the other). The often asymmetrical leaves have a smooth texture and are green in colour. The plants typically start branching at about 20-30 cm from the ground. The flowers are bell-shaped and purple with conspicuous yellow anthers. They are 2-3 cm long and grow in solitude, drooping from the axils of the leaves. The flowers usually appear between June and September, after which they produce dark, shiny black or purple berries containing sweet, dark, ink-like juices. The berries are 1.5-2 cm in diameter and are 2-celled (Blamey & Grey-Wilson 1989; Stace & Meijden undated).
The highly toxic alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and bellodonnine are present throughout the plant (Cross 2012, Rita & Aminesh 2011, Butcher 1947). The toxins are most prevalent in the roots of the plant, followed by the leaves and flowers, and then the berries, which contain the least amount of toxic alkaloids (Rita & Aminesh 2011).
- Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). The illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. Hodder & Stoughton.
- Butcher, R. W. (1947). Atropa belladonna L. Journal of Ecology 34: 345-353.
- Cross, K. (2012). Atropa belladonna L., Solanaceae. Medicinal Plant Monographs 66-74.
- Rita, P. & Animesh, D. K. (2011). An updated overview on Atropa belladonna L. International Research Journal of Pharmacy.
- Stace, C. & van der Meijden, R. (undated). Interactive Flora of NW Europe.
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