21 May 2011

Henbane at Cwm Ivy

Locally Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) is a very rare plant and Peter Sturgess has been monitoring a small population that he found near Cwm Ivy in 2008. With help from Peter and Andy Cole, Neil Edwards and myself saw 12 plants at one site, a few of which had started flowering.
each flower about an inch across
Due to todays breezy conditions Neil kindly held the base of the plant to steady it while I took a few shots and afterwards he commented how it had left his hands all sticky. I hope he washed them before eating as I've just read that it can be toxic, even fatal, in low doses. Apparently plants produce hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids and common effects of Henbane ingestion in humans include hallucinations, dilated pupils, restlessness, flushed skin and occasionally tachycardia, convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, hyperpyrexia and ataxia.

This plant was also discovered at Port Eynon car park in 2001 by the late Tony Lewis. He later found out that apparently dozens of seedlings appeared there in 2000 but were destroyed with only a few surviving to flower in 2001. These are the only modern West Glamorgan records I am aware of, so please do make a note if you come across it elsewhere, but best not to touch it!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Barry; do me a favour ,read the book before we go out next time. Yours alive and well,Neil.

Charles Hipkin said...

It's a fabulous plant. It grew in the vicinity of Swansea Leisure Centre in 1979 and also on distubed ground along Fabian Way on occasions after that, but I haven't seen it there in recent years. It's an annual, so population survival is completely dependent on seed production. However, buried seeds can remain viable for a very long time (probably 100s of years)and little populations can suddenly appear after soil movement and disturbance. Its appearance near the Leisure Centre coincided with the development of that area in the late 1970s.

Rob Ladds said...

wonderfull, where are they?!
They were common in earlier times, especially on the middens, and have a chequered history of use as anaesthetic or sleeping draughts. Until the 19th centuary, herbal medicine and witchcraft overlapped. They were used for out-of-body experiences (hallucinations if not done properly)

Barry Stewart said...

Thanks for that Rob. They're on private land at the Christian Youth Camp at Cwm Ivy so you will have to arrange a vist with them if you want to see it. Alternatively you could check the Port Eynon car park area to see if it's reappeared there. The area behind the toilet block was where they were last seen!