atropa-belladonna-frAtropa (AT ro pa) from the name of the Greek goddess Atropos, one of the three Fates. The name literally means ‘she who may not be turned (aside)’

The Three Fates were sisters who controlled the thread of life from birth to death. Clotho, the youngest sister, spun the thread, Lachesis measured it, and Atropos, the oldest, cut it with her “abhorred shears.”. The Fates were said to be the daughters of Zeus and Themis, the goddess of divine justice.

Atropa is the generic name for a small group of herbaceous perennials in the potato family (Solonaceae) that includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Unlike their vegetable cousins, their leaves and berries are poisonous. Atropa spp thrive in the partial shade of woodland settings.

A. belladonna

The most famous member of the genus is Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade, native to Europe, North Africa, and western Asia but has naturalized in areas of Canada and the US. The branching plants grow over six feet tall and have a fleshy rootstock and green leaves about 7’ long. The bell shaped flowers are dull purple tinged with green, and the fruits are green berries about ½” across, that ripen to shiny black.  The specific epithet bella donna comes from the Italianwords bella meaning beautiful, and donna meaning woman, referring to the fact that women used  tthe plant to dilate their pupils  in an effort to make themselves more alluring.

By Karen