• Jen Haynes

Toxic new invader in the Boundary!

A new species in our area is black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), which is native to the Mediterranean. It is a member of the nightshade family. It was brought to North America as an ornamental and medicinal species. Black henbane contains toxic alkaloids that are poisonous to humans as well as animals. It is a beautiful plant but has an unpleasant smell. Black henbane is a biennial but can be an annual. It has a thick root. The plant is covered in soft, sticky hairs. The leaves are soft with the upper side being a dark green and the underside a lighter, grayish colour. The leaves are 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. The leaves are alternate, coarsely toothed, and shallowly lobed. The flowers are a very distinctive funnel shape, creamy coloured with purple veins and centers. The flowers are borne on spikes from the leaf axils. The seeds are egg shaped, flattened deeply pitted. The plants grow to around four feet tall. Black henbane spreads by seed. Each plant produces up to half a million seeds. It typically grows in pastures, roadsides and along railways. It will grow in a variety of soils. Even though black henbane has been used for medicinal purposes it is poisonous even at low doses. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, rapid pulse, convulsions, and coma. If you touch it with bare skin it can cause skin irritation. Black henbane was found in the Grand Forks area in 2019. It was in an area that was flooded in 2018. If you see this plant, please contact the Boundary Invasive Species Society immediately. When you contact us, it would be helpful if you have photos of the plant and an exact location. UTMs or GPS coordinates are especially helpful. If you find it on a roadside measure the kms from the nearest road junction. As it was found in a flooded area it is possible that it will show up along the river. This plant is on the Provinces’ Early Detection Rapid Response list of invasive plants. There is not a lot of black henbane in the province and it is a priority for eradication. To report invasive plants or for more information you can contact the Boundary Invasive Species Society at 250-446-2232, info@boundaryinvasives.com, Facebook and www.boundaryinvasives.com.