Golden henbane

Hyoscyamus aureus

البنج الذهبي

By Robert Flogaus-Faust - Own work, CC BY 4.0Link

Status: Common

Hyoscyamus aureus This plant from the family Solanaceae is known by its English name Golden henbane. There are five species of the genus Hyoscyamus in Palestine and wider area, but Hyoscyamus aureus is the most common one in this location. Golden henbane is distributed in South Europe and Western Asia, being found growing in habitats, such stony places, cliffs, old walls and ruins and dry soils in the Mediterranean shrub and woodlands, steppe deserts, extreme deserts.

Hyoscyamus aureus has much branched decumbent stems measuring 50 cm height. The leaves are palmate lobed alternate, dentate or serrate, with sharply and acutely margins. The flowers are hermaphrodite, with bright yellow corolla and deep purple corolla basis.

The fruits are up to 13 mm long capsules, dehiscent, with minutely pitted discoid like seeds. Hyoscyamus aureus is a biennial or perennial plant species, depending on the climate of its location and its blooming time is from March to June.

Curiously, all parts of Hyoscyamus aureus are toxic and may cause poisoning symptoms like impaired vision, convulsions or respiratory failure. Hence this plant is not edible. Nevertheless, some other species of Hyoscyamus contain hyoscyamine, which is a substance used in the antiquity as sedative, against pain and dental problems. In addition, in the Middle Ages hyoscyamine was the most frequently used anaesthetic for operational interferences.