Tag Archives: botany

a dark gardens glossary: deadly nightshade


Deadly Nightshade is an extremely lovely and dangerous plant. Belladonna and atropine are derived from Deadly Nightshade; both substances have medicinal uses, as well as being fatal in larger doses.

From wikipedia.org:

“The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids….It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery, and it was used as a poison by early men, and ancient Romans, including the wives of two Emperors, and by Macbeth of Scotland before he became a Scottish King.

The genus name “atropa” comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Green mythology, and the name “atropa bella donna” is derived from an admonition in Italian and Greek meaning “do not betray a beautiful lady.””


From botanical.com: “According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches’ sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye.”

My Nightshade Earrings are, I hope, equally seductive, but are not deadly. They feature vintage cobalt glass lampwork flowers, anchoring swinging chains of bright sterling silver, a bright brass link of oval chain, and a creamy vintage Lucite faux pearl.

a dark gardens glossary

I was so busy when I launched the new Dark Gardens collection that I didn’t really have time to write about it the way I wanted to. To make up for that, I’m planning to do a series of short posts on the origins of specific pieces so that some of my favorites can have a little space to shine.

The Dark Gardens collection is inspired by poisonous and medicinal plants, with a healthy dose of fairy tale and child heroine thrown in for good measure. Most of my designs in this project feature unusual vintage beads in a dark palette – cobalt, plum, chartreuse, emerald and black. The dark tones are offset with bright metals – sterling silver, goldfilled chain and bright brasses – that give the designs some sparkle and represent the seductive allure of my deadly and entrancing inspirations. I’m very proud of this line (although I’m still arguing with myself about the new photographs – I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100% comfortable with my product photographs), and I hope my customers find it as appealing as I do.

My short glossary series begins with an elegant little pair of earrings called Blue Pimpernel, pictured above. The pimpernel was once used medicinally for several purposes. Botanical.com offers a little background on the medicinal lore of the pimpernel:

“This blue variety (Anagallis cerulea) is described as growing in beautiful little tufts about the hills of Madeira.

The plant appears in the Herbals and Vocabularies of the sixteenth century as ‘Bipinella,’ a name originally applied to the Great and Salad Burnet. It was much used as a cosmetic herb. Howard, in The Old Commodore, 1837, says: ‘If she’d only used my pimpernel water, for she has one monstrous freckle in her forehead.The plant was also said to be a remedy for the bites of mad dogs and to dispel sadness.


This plant once had a great reputation in medicine, and was used as a universal panacea.

‘No heart can think, no tongue can tell
The virtues of the Pimpernel.’

Pliny speaks of its value in liver complaints, and its generic name Anagallis (given it by Dioscorides) is derived from the Greek Anagelao, signifying ‘to laugh,’ because it removes the depression that follows liver troubles.

The Greeks used it for diseases of the eye, and Gerard and Culpepper affirm that ‘it helpeth them that are dim-sighted,’ the juice being mixed with honey and dropped into the eyes.

It is ‘a gallant, Solar herb, of a cleansing attractive quality, whereby it draweth forth thorns and splinters gotten into the flesh.’

‘Used inwardly and applied outwardly,’ Culpepper tells us, ‘it helpeth also all stinging and biting of venomous beasts or mad dogs.’

And again, ‘the distilled water or juice is much celebrated by French dames to cleanse the skin from any roughness, deformity or discolourings thereof.’

Another old writer says ‘the Herb Pimpernel is good to prevent witchcraft, as Mother Bumby doth affirm.'”

My version of the blue pimpernel doesn’t boast of any medicinal properties, although I do hope it possesses the power to please and cheer. These earrings are made with vintage black plastic teardrops, a vintage cobalt glass flower, and a length of beautiful geometric vintage brass chain, and hang 2 1/4″ long from oxidized sterling silver French hooks.