Flowers: Pale, yellow-green with purple veins and a purple throat. Each flower is funnel-shaped with 5 lobbed petals. Flowers produce an unpleasant smell.
Stems: Erect, woody stem that can grow up to 1 m tall.
Leaves: Soft, dull leaves grow in an alternate arrangement along the stem. The top of the leaf is a dark green shade and the underside is a lighter grey colour with soft, fluffy hairs. Leaves are lobed with conspicuous veins. Basal leaves are long, petiolate and oblong or elliptical; stalk leaves are sessile and enclose the stalk. Black Henbane leaves, like its flowers, produce an unpleasant smell.
Seeds: Small, black, dormant seeds.
Roots: Thick, cylindrical taproot.
Additional Information: The entire plant is covered in sticky, greasy hairs.
Habitat and Origin
Black Henbane originates from the Mediterranean and has been used as a medicinal plant since the Middle Ages. It can also be found in parts of Asia, North Africa and Europe.
In the past, it has also been used in religious rites for its hallucinogenic properties and is used in parts of Asia, Europe and North Africa for bird feed.
Black Henbane can be found growing in areas with moist, nutrient-rich, sandy or loamy soils.
Propagation and Vectors of Spread
Black Henbane reproduces solely by seed. A single plant can produce up to 10,000 seeds in one season, and the seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to four years.
Seeds can be spread by wind and by contaminated soil and gravel. Gardeners also contribute to the spread of Black Henbane by planting it in their gardens.
Ecological and Economic Impacts
Ecological and Health:
- Extremely toxic to livestock and humans
- Harbors major crop pests, which can be detrimental to the farming industry.
What Can I Do?
Black Henbane is NOT currently found throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, so the best approach to controlling its spread is by PREVENTION.
Learn to identify Black Henbane: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Black Henbane.
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Black Henbane sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations
- Ensure plants (particularly flowering heads and root fragments) are bagged and covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites (e.g., landfill).
- Black Henbane is not a good competitor, so maintaining a healthy vegetation population of native plants will help against its establishment.
- Purchase Black Henbane or plant it in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Compost Black Henbane.
- Unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Move soil that has been contaminated with Black Henbane.
- Hand-pull small infestations; make sure to remove the entire taproot.
- If there are seeds present on mature plants, they should be bagged after removal and disposed of appropriately.
- Sites must be monitored for re-growth for at least four years after initial removal, as there is potential for growth of new seedlings.
- Dicamba, metsulfron, aminopyralid and 2,4-D have all been proven to help chemically control Black Henbane.
- Picloram is also effective, however it is not suitable for wet, coastal soils.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations; and site-specific goals and objectives.
- Black Henbane does not tolerate plowing, disking or cultivation.
- Mature plants can be burned in a controlled environment to prevent the spread.
- There is no known biocontrol for Black Henbane.
Alberta Invasive Species Council, Black Henbane Factsheet, https://abinvasives.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FS-Black-henbane.pdf
BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Black Henbane Alert Factsheet, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/alerts/black_henbane_alert.pdf
Bugwood Wiki, Hyoscyamus niger, https://wiki.bugwood.org/Hyoscyamus_niger
Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Black Henbane, https://www.cbif.gc.ca/eng/species-bank/canadian-poisonous-plants-information-system/all-plants-common-name/black-henbane/?id=1370403267061
Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Hyoscyamus niger, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Hyoscyamus%20niger&noTransfer=0
Interactive Agronomic Atlas of Russia and Neighboring Countries, Black Henbane, http://www.agroatlas.ru/en/content/weeds/Hyoscyamus_niger/index.html
Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, Black Henbane, https://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weeds/black-henbane