Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bittersweet




The mystery of this pretty little plant from yesterday has been solved. Many thanks to Stephanie V. and Squirrel Queen. My research confirmed their identification. And I must admit that their answer shocked and excited me, while giving me chills. It is Deadly Nightshade, one of the most poisionous things in the world. On a list of most poisionous things, it ranks right up there with cobra and adder venom, and pufferfish. Also known as bittersweet, every part of this plant is poisionous, working by paralyzing the nervous system. Children have been known to die after eating just a few berries. One of the three chemicals in the plant, atropine, is what eye doctors use to this day to dialate your pupils. It works by paralyzing them. Legends say the plant belongs to the devil, who tends it at his leisure, and that witches use it for spells. Yes, I sat transfixed, reading all of this while staring at pictures of our own plant. Such a beguilingly beautiful, yet deadly thing right in our own back yard! I am horrified, yet spellbound. My friend asked me if we were going to get rid of it. I suppose we should, as we have children around here all the time. But it will be bittersweet.


"Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink it's water because it was bitter....So the people grumbled against Moses, saying "What are we to drink?" Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet." Exodus 15: 22,25

12 comments:

Pin-Feathers said...

Hi there! Pin-Feathers here. I happened upon your blog by following through blogs. Enjoyed this description about nightshade & the pictures - they're great. We had nightshade our backyard area growing up and were told never to touch it or eat it. I believe it is related to the potato family too.
Have a wonderful weekend!
pin-feathers

Kilauea Poetry said...

Ahh..this is a very attractive flower! I'm getting hooked on legends now! You made this so engaging! I must of missed the name, not bittersweet, right? I could see why you'd hate to part with it though..interesting about its use..sounds like the Medusa, ha. Well, I spent most of the afternoon making Lasagna for my sons birthday tomorrow (a request) (he'll be 28yrs. The older one will be 30 the first week of July..anyway, I haven't made this in awhile. I split up the cooking- I can do cake tomorrow! My husband went motorcycle riding (with a bad back) hmm? He'll want sympathy! Oh well..enjoyed your post as usual and the neat verse..I meant to put -hope your enjoying your weekend (lol) am I ahead?

Sandra said...

I read a lot of mysterys and they use this as a murder weapon, i have never seen one and had no idea. this is a lot of info and very intereting. it is a shame to get rid of it, but like you said you have the little ones to watch over. i am shocked and now scared that they put that in my eye, what if the put to much? now you got my whatiffer going again.

From the Kitchen said...

Is this the same bittersweet that produces those bright orange berries in the fall? We used to buy it at a wonderful little shop that sat right on Rt. 11 in Staunton. As I recall, the name of the shop was Ewenique Antiques (or some such play on words). It was an old, old two-story house. I've also found it at the Dayton Farmer's Market. Now I'm thinking of fall.

Best,
Bonnie

Bird Girl said...

That is amazing! I've hear of this plant yet never seen it and I'm glad you found all this about it. I wonder if birds or other animals can eat the berries?
There are so many things we don't know about. One year I was weeding out in my flower bed and I dug up some old roots that were tough to get out and they broke - I happened to wipe my face (from sweat) and then noticed that the entire side of my face was numb! I wondered what root may have caused this and even wrote to some online sites but no one had an idea. (long before blogs were invented ;-) Very strange. It lasted only a few hours.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Awe.... How could something so pretty be so deadly???? Gosh--I believe I would get rid of it... You don't want any of the neighborhood children or your grands getting into that thing... Maybe you find something just as pretty to replace it....

Happy Father's Day to you and yours...
Hugs,
Betsy

DawnTreader said...

So that's what they put in my eye at at the eye clinic?! ;) hmm... Something I find hard to "digest" is that it is related to tomatoes and potatoes - they're all of genus "Solanum". Some variety of solanum with blue flowers reminding of yours is also quite popular here as ornamental garden tree. I don't think they survive the winter outdoors in Sweden but I know that in southern England the same plant can grow into huge trees (I've seen it on TV). I had a small such tree once on my balcony and it also survived one winter indoors and the next summer on the balcony. I can't remember it procucing any berries though.

George said...

Thanks for the pictures and information about this fascinating plant. I don't believe I've seen one before. I can understand if you choose to get rid of it because of the children you have visiting.

Stephanie V said...

Well done, Ginny...lots of good research. I'd probably get rid of it, too.
Thanks for your comments at mine. I'm still using the same camera as always...it doesn't have fancy lenses but it does have a great super-macro setting. This was one of the reasons we bought it.
One still has to work at the photo, though, and some turn out better than others.

hip chick said...

As soon as you said it I realized it was deadly night shade. But, I didn't know it was bittersweet. Is that the same pretty red and yellow berry that people decorate with in the fall?

Lucy said...

Hmmmmmm....when I was going through a bad divorce I could have used those berries for something. Bwahahahaha!

SquirrelQueen said...

It really is a beautiful plant and fairly common. Like other toxic plants it has a bad reputation but actually has lots of medical value. It is also used in asthma medications and is responsible for saving many lives. Another toxic plant, foxglove, also has many medical uses. No matter how bad something is it can still have good qualities.