DEADLY NIGHTSHADE Atropa belladonna

DEADLY NIGHTSHADE Atropa belladonna

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Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a poisonous perennial plant in the nightshade family. Its distribution extends from Great Britain in the west to western Ukraine and the Iranian province of Gilan in the east. It is also naturalized and/or introduced in some parts of Canada and the United States.

The foliage and berries are extremely toxic when ingested. Atropa belladonna has unpredictable effects. The ancient Romans used it as a poison (the wife of Emperor Augustus and the wife of Claudius both were rumored to have used it for murder); and, predating this, it was used to make poison-tipped arrows.

Plants grow to 2 metres (6.6 ft) tall with ovate leaves 18 centimetres (7.1 in) long. The bell-shaped flowers are pink/purple with green tinges and faintly scented. The fruits are berries, which are green, ripening to a shiny-black, and approximately 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) in diameter. The berries are consumed by animals that disperse the seeds in their droppings, even though they contain toxic alkaloids.

Atropa belladonna is native to temperate southern and central Europe but has been cultivated and introduced outside its native range. It is naturalized in parts of North America, where it is often found in shady, moist locations with limestone-rich soils.

Type: Hardy perennial

Hardiness zones: 5-9

Location: Shade or part shade

Seeds per pack: 10

Note: This plant and seeds are very toxic

Germination: As with many perennial seeds, these seeds can benefit from a period of moist cold to help them grow. This is done by giving them a cold 'winter' period (artificial or natural), and then a warming to simulate 'spring', and time to grow! Here's how this can be done:

Obtain a planting container that has holes in the bottom for excess water to drain. Place the seeds just under the surface of your growing medium, and water. Place your container in a cold area (but not freezing, perhaps a refrigerator) for 4-6 weeks. Once the cold period is completed, place the container at room temperature for them to germinate. Be sure to keep the soil moist during this entire germination period. Seedlings will sprout a few weeks, or occasionally several months, after the warming period.


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