My name is Belladonna
My name is Belladonna and I’m an angiosperm. That is to say, a flowering-bearing plant. I’m very proud of my lineage too. You see, my ancestors evolved from the gymnosperms, or seed-producing plants, about 250 million years ago. However, the solanaceous flowers, or “nightshades”, didn’t actually come along until much later.
We came about at the end of the age of the reptiles, or what geologists call the Mesozoic Era. Anyhow, it was during the time of the great asteroid collision 66 million years ago, when the sun got blocked out by ash and dust. It’s sad, we come from a time when there was very little sunlight, so we had to make do the best we could. That’s why, to this very day, our kind still prefers to live in the shade and flower at night, hence the name.
However, regardless of any of the seemingly peculiar habits that we may or may not have as plants, the Solanaceae are a very important family of angiosperms. We range from annual and perennial herbs to vines, shrubs, trees, and more. Personally, I like to grow as a subshrub. Regardless, believe it or not, I’m actually very closely related to the tomato, chili pepper, and tobacco plants, and all kinds of others too.
Unfortunately, I can’t really be consumed in the kinds of ways that they can. So, my relationship with animals has been a bit different from theirs. Among the humans especially, I’m seen as a kind of poison, or a drug. I’m not even like tobacco though. When my berries are eaten they cause people to die, or at the very least to become highly delirious. This makes me dangerous, but the truth is that I can also be very useful at the same time.
A while back, prehistoric man would coat the tips of their arrows with the juice from my berries, because the tropane alkaloids it contains are quite toxic. As another example, in Ancient Rome, Agrippina the Younger killed her husband Emperor Claudius, and Livia also took the life of her husband Emperor Augustus. Macbeth of Scotland even used it once during a truce to poison the troops of the King of England, causing them to retreat to their ships.
Along with using me criminally, I have also been used cosmetically. Not that long ago, drops were prepared from the fruit that I bear to dilate women’s pupils, making them more seductive looking to men. However this often caused visual distortions and could even lead to blindness. This was also typically applied as a decoction to beautify a woman by inducing pallid skin. This was found to be quite alluring at the time.
Along with this, I even taught the witches to fly. As herbalists they learned how to use me in their ointments and potions to make use of the scopolamine it contains. Of course, the so-called flying ointments they used were nothing more than preparation for the work to come. They weren’t flying to their gatherings, they were taking drugs to get there. They entered dream-like waking states by communing with my soul and that of the poppy plant, before they went out to cast their spells. They were flying high on tropane and opiate alkaloids, not broomsticks.
Some of us nightshades are notoriously harmful, but the thing is that we can also be very helpful as well. For instance, I’ve been used medicinally for centuries now. Humans use me as a muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory, and to treat things like motion sickness. Belladonna derived powders, tinctures, decoctions, and salt mixtures are currently used to such an extent that they had to be standardized, at 65 parts scopolamine to 194 parts atropine to 1037 parts hyoscyamine.
Along with this, I’m also occasionally used as a recreational drug, which I’m not really all that comfortable with. I developed my psychotropic alkaloids as part of a defense mechanism to sort of discourage grazers from consuming too many of my incredibly sweet, but profoundly toxic berries. They were not intended to be used to purposefully induce delirium for fun, but there’s not really a whole lot that I can do about that.
I’m nice to look at, but that’s about it when it comes to appreciating me. I’m not really made for consumption, but I do love all the attention I get from people. Maybe someday I’ll even get to know you, unless we’ve already met in some way. Who knows, with all the dissociative psychedelics running through my body, it’s a miracle that I can even remember anything at all. That’s not true, I may not be able to count like the carnivorous plants, but I still know a thing or two. My name is Belladonna, and I think I’m a very important plant, whether anyone agrees with me or not.
By the way, just as an aside, if you liked my story you might also be interested in the life of one of my relatives, her name is Datura. That’s her real first name, mine’s actually Atropa, but everybody just calls me Belladonna. Although I mainly live in Western Asia, North Africa, and Europe, she prefers South America. Well, I mean, technically I’m from central Europe and she was really born in Mexico, but since then we have moved around a lot. Regardless, the point is that even she has been used and abused, from time to time.
Colombian criminals, in particular, have figured out how to use scopolamine to turn people into totally suggestible puppets that can be made to do anything. So, people get taken advantage of in every conceivable way, getting burglarized and raped, and seeming like willing participants the entire time. Granted, I understand that both she and I are beautiful, but we can also be quite deadly. Nonetheless, plants are living creatures and we deserve respect. Plus, I don’t want these kinds of burdens on my mind, and I’m sure Datura doesn’t either. Flowers have feelings too, you know.