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Atropa is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae : tall, calcicole, herbaceous perennials (rhizomatous hemicryptophytes), bearing large leaves and glossy berries particularly dangerous to children, due to their combination of an attractive, cherry-like appearance with a high toxicity.[2] Atropa species favour temperate climates and alkaline soils, often growing in light shade in woodland environments associated with limestone hills and mountains.[3][4] Their seeds can remain viable in the soil for long periods, germinating when the soil of sites in which plants once grew (but from which plants have long been absent) is disturbed by human activity[5] or by natural causes, e.g. the windthrow of trees (a property shared by the seeds of other Solanaceae in tribe Hyoscyameae e.g. those of Hyoscyamus spp., the henbanes).[6] The best-known member of the genus Atropa is Deadly Nightshade (A. belladonna) - the poisonous plant par excellence in the minds of many.[7] The pharmacologically active ingredients of Atropa species include atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine, all tropane alkaloids having anticholinergic, deliriant, antispasmodic and mydriatic properties.[8] The genus is named for Άτροπος (Atropos) - lit. 'she who may not be turned (aside)' - one of the Three Fates and cutter of the thread of life / bringer of death - in reference to the extreme toxicity of A.belladonna and its fellow species - of which three others are currently accepted.[9][10]

Atropa bella-donna1.jpg
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Subfamily: Solanoideae
Tribe: Hyoscyameae
Genus: Atropa

4 accepted, see text

In some older classifications, the mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) has been placed in the genus Atropa, under the binomial Atropa mandragora.


The genus Atropa is currently under review, so changes in nomenclature are likely, once said review is complete. It will be seen from the above that there is an overlap in the respective distributions of A. acuminata, A. komarovii and A. pallidiflora in the lush Hyrcanian forests of Northern Iran, and it is possible that some or all of these species may yet be subsumed in the concept Atropa belladonna. A. belladonna itself (including its variety caucasica) is also present in the Hyrcanian forests and vol. 100 of Flora Iranica includes a useful key with which to distinguish the four species occurring in northern Iran. Data on A. pallidiflora and A. acuminata Royle ex Miers are neither abundant nor readily accessible on the Internet at present. The reported presence of an Atropa species in Mongolia is intriguing, given that country's relative remoteness from Kashmir and its (Kashmir's) well-attested population of Atropa acuminata Royle ex Lindl. The unequivocal presence of Atropa in the Eastern Himalaya would go at least some way to bridging the gap between Kashmiri and Mongolian populations of this genus. Some light might be cast upon this problem by the gaining of a better knowledge of the rare and poorly-known monotypic genus Pauia, found in Arunachal Pradesh and adjoining areas of Assam. The single species Pauia belladonna Deb and Dutta is described as bearing a marked similarity to Atropa acuminata Royle ex Lindl. and may yet prove to be referable to the genus Atropa, after all.[13]


  1. ^ "Atropa L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
  2. ^ A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants : A Handbook for Pharmacists, Doctors, Toxicologists, and Biologists by Frohne, Dietrich and Pfänder, Hans Jürgen of University of Kiel, translated from second German edition by Norman Grainger Bisset, London : a Wolfe Science Book and one of the volumes in the illustrated series Wolfe Atlases, pub. Wolfe Publishing Ltd. 1984.
  3. ^ Flora Europaea, Tutin T.G., Heywood V.H. and Burgess N.A. pub. Cambridge University Press 2010 ISBN 0521154065
  4. ^ Flora Iberica
  5. ^ HERRERA, C.M.(1987). Distribucion, ecologia y conservacion de Atropa baetica Willk. (Solanaceae) en la Sierra de Cazorla. Anales Jard. Bot. Madrid 43(2):387-398.
  6. ^ Flora Britannica pps. 300-301, Mabey, Richard, pub. Sinclair-Stevenson 1996
  7. ^ Largo, Michael (18 August 2014). "Big, Bad Botany: Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna), the Poisonous A-Lister". Retrieved 24 September 2018 – via Slate.
  8. ^ MAQBOOL, Farhana, SINGH, Seema, KALOO, Zahoor A., and JAN, Mahroofa, of University of Kashmir, Hazratbal, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India : Medicinal Importance of Genus Atropa Royle -A review : International Journal of Advanced Research (2014), Volume 2, Issue 2, 48-54.
  9. ^ "Atropa — The Plant List". Retrieved 24 September 2018.
  10. ^ The Biology and Taxonomy of the Solanaceae edited by Hawkes, J.G., Lester, R.N. and Skelding, A.D. (Linnean Society Symposium Series Number 7) Published for the Linnean Society of London by Academic Press 1979.
  11. ^ Rechinger, Karl Heinz and Schönbeck-Temesy, Eva 1972. Solanaceae. Nº 100 de Flora Iranica : Flora des iranischen Hochlandes und der umrahmenden Gebirge; Persien, Afghanistan, Teile von West-Pakistan, Nord-Iraq, Azerbaidjan, Turkmenistan. 102 pp.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Armando T. Hunziker: The Genera of Solanaceae. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag K.G., Ruggell, Liechtenstein 2001. ISBN 3-904144-77-4.