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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 23rd July 2011

I’ve been meaning for a week or more to do a photo blog showing the way the flowers of Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade, become the attractive black berries that have, on rare occasions, been picked and used as a dessert with unfortunate consequences.

The problem is that we’ve had so little sunshine that, so far, none of the berries on the plants in my garden have even begun to ripen. I’ve decided, therefore, to make it a two part blog with the early stages today and the final stage to follow at some future date.

Let’s begin with a reminder of the small purple flower.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

After pollination, the flower starts to wither...

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

as the berry starts to form at its base.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

With the berry fully formed, the flower drops off.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

At this stage the calyx, the green parts around the berry, are cup-shaped protecting the berry.

 Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

As the berry gets larger the calyx opens and becomes flatter.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

Of course, the whole plant does not go through this process at the same time. Here’s a well-formed berry set to start ripening with a flower right next to it.

Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade

Let's hope for some sunshine in the next week or so and I'll post the second part showing the ripe berries looking good enough to eat.