Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ONE MAN’S POISON – The Lovely Contradictions of Nightshade

Nightshade. The name alone evokes images of sorcery and death.

But this is not the fabled deadly nightshade (atropa belladonna). This cousin’s more benign name is bittersweet or woody nightshade (solanum dulcamara).

It’s still toxic though, containing dulcamarine, a glycoside similar in structure and effects to the poisonous compound atropine.

I’m slain not by nightshade’s toxicology, but its arresting beauty, which I gladly consume—and it, me—at so many levels. Color and form, line and texture all pull me in to explore their nuance.

Violet petals blush passionate purple near the base, and turn up at their very tips…why?

Two dollops of white with pastel green centers adorn each petal, a cheery necklace 'round the golden stamens, which thrust through like tiny ears of corn, topped with fine white spikes.

Young berries nestle like jewels in elegant, scalloped settings, soon to turn from emerald to orange garnet to ruby.

But what strikes me most amazing of all these delights is the stem, its straight, even segments and measured angles cleverly mirroring the very molecular diagram of nightshade's poison.


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