How to Identify and Remove Belladonna

Common Name: Belladonna, deadly nightshade, devil’s cherry, black nightshade, European bittersweet, climbing nightshade
Botanical Name: Atropa belladonna
Family: Solanaceae
Plant Type:  Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size: 3-4 ft. tall and wide
Sun Exposure: Full, partial
Soil Type: Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH: Neutral, acidic, alkaline
Bloom Time:  Summer, fall
Flower Color: Purple, green
Hardiness Zones: 5-9 (USDA)
Native Area:  Europe, Asia
Toxicity: Toxic to people and domesticated animals

Belladonna Toxicity

All parts of belladonna—leaves, flowers, fruits, and roots—are highly toxic to humans and domesticated animals if consumed. The sweet, purplish-black berries attract children and are the greatest risk.

Birds and other wildlife seem immune to its effects; for example, the honeybees that make honey with belladonna nectar that is toxic for human consumption. The toxic ingredients in belladonna include atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine.

What Does Belladonna Look Like

Belladonna is a tall, bushy, upright perennial of the nightshade family that returns yearly. It grows three to four feet high and wide.

The dark green leaves are oval and unevenly sized, ranging from three to ten inches long. The leaves on the lower part of the plant are solitary; on the upper part of the plant, they grow in pairs.

Belladonna blooms for an extended period, from June through early September. The flowers are mildly scented, dull purple or lavender with a green tinge, and are distinctly bell-shaped. The flowers are located in the leaf axils, the angle between the leaf and the upper part of the stem.

The fruit, often called the devil’s cherry, ripens between late August and September and is black and shiny like a cherry. The berries are not evenly sized and can reach about three-quarters of an inch in size. Once they ripen, the berries dry up quickly. Due to their slight resemblance with wild edible berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, the purplish-black, sweet-tasting fruit of belladonna pose a particular risk of being ingested.

How to Get Rid of Belladonna from Your Yard

If you have positively identified belladonna in your yard, take all the necessary precautions to avoid skin contact. Wear long sleeves, long pants, boots, and gloves. If the plant is tall and there is the slightest risk that your face will have contact with the plant, also wear goggles or a full-face respirator.

Dig out the plant with all its roots. Be thorough because belladonna regrows from any roots left in the soil. Safely dispose of the entire plant, including its roots, in the trash. Don’t forget to disinfect the tools you have been using for removing the plant—shovel, pruners—with a chlorine bleach solution (1 cup chlorine bleach per 1-gallon water). When cleaning the tools, wear waterproof gloves and dispose of the solution properly. Wash your work clothes immediately and separately from other clothing.

If belladonna starts to regrow from residual roots, the most efficient chemical to use is a non-selective herbicide such as glyphosate. Make sure to apply the herbicide when the shoots are still tiny to minimize the use of herbicide and kill the plant before it can spread again.

How to Prevent Belladonna From Spreading

Belladonna spreads rapidly like a weed. The plant dies back during the winter and regrows in the spring from its thick, fleshy roots. Birds that eat the seeds without ill effects spread the plant to other locations in their droppings.

How to Tell the Difference Between Belladonna vs. Twinberry Honeysuckle

Twinberry honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata) is often confused for belladonna because the black berries from this shrub look very similar. However, as its common name suggests, twinberry honeysuckle produces a pair of two berries together. Meanwhile, belladonna only makes single berries. Also, the berries of the honeysuckle variety are smaller, and it has red leaves from the spot where the berries emerge.

Twinberry honeysuckle flowers look similar to belladonna, but they are yellow—another dead giveaway it’s not belladonna—which has dark purple blooms.


    • Belladonna is native to Eurasia from England through central and southern Europe, North Africa to Iran. In the United States, belladonna has been found in several states, including New York, Michigan, California, Oregon, and Washington. It often grows in wastelands and areas with disturbed soil, such as dumps, quarries, and roadsides.

    • Belladonna is legal to grow, buy, and sell in the United States. One U.S. prescription drug contains belladonna. The FDA bans the use of belladonna in over-the-counter products.

    • The species name “Atropa” comes from Atropos, the Greek goddess who holds the shears to cut the thread of life as one of the three goddesses of fate and destiny.

      “Belladonna” comes from the Italian words “beautiful woman.” It is suggested that ladies during the Renaissance used eye drops made of belladonna to dilate their pupils, a sign of beauty at the time.

    • Belladonna’s other common name is deadly nightshade. It is a toxic member of the nightshade family of plants. Not all nightshades are toxic to humans; for example, other common nightshade plants include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tobacco.

Sign in
Cart (0)

No products in the cart. No products in the cart.


error: Content is protected !!