Enchanter’s Nightshade

Enchanters' Nightshade in Schenley Park (photo by Kate St. John)
Enchanter’s nightshade, Schenley Park, 2013 (photo by Kate St. John)

13 July 2013

This plant has a conspicuous name and inconspicuous flowers.

Enchanters’ Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana, ssp. canadensis) blooms in shady woodlands in June and July. Subspecies are native to Europe, north Africa, western Asia and eastern North America.

The plant’s common and scientific names both refer to magic though it’s hard to find out why.  Some sources say Circe used this plant to turn Odysseus’ men into swine, thus the genus name Circaea.  The species name lutetiana is the Latin name for Paris.  Is this Paris the city?  Or is it Paris of Troy who started the Trojan War that spawned Odysseus’ epic journey home?  The sources don’t agree.

I like this plant’s open airy structure but that makes it hard to photograph.  I spent a lot of time on my knees in Schenley Park and threw away a lot of bad pictures.  Above is the best I could do.

To see the flowers, here’s a closeup from Wikimedia Commons taken by Randy Nonenmacher in Skaneateles, New York.

Close-up of Enchanters' Nightshade flowers (photo by Randy Nonenmacher on Wikimedia Commons)
Enchanter’s nightshade (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Notice how the flower stems turn down and the receptacles(*)  are poised to become the seed pods. The flowers look so delicate.


(whole-plant photo by Kate St. John.  Close-up from Wikimedia Commons; click on the close-up to see the original image)

(*) Receptacles are defined in this diagram of a flower.

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