Hyoscyamus niger flowers
Henbane is a large biennial plant, meaning it takes two years from seed to fruition. It likes chalky soil and disturbed ground. Chris the botanist pointed it out to me in July on day three of our chalk grassland surveys. We found it growing at Gayles Farm in Sussex near a field gate where there had previously been disturbed soil due to stock movement.
I have read that Henbane is an Archaeophyte – this means it is not a native species but was introduced before 1500.
Don’t touch any part of this plant as it is poisonous!
Identifying Hyoscyamus niger
I don’t think I could confuse this plant with any other UK wildflowers as the overall form is so striking. The plant we found was tall at about one metre, with unusual large arching stems. I noticed that the leaves were hairy, about 20cm long and oval as can be seen in the pics. They were all the way along the flower stems. The pale yellow flowers were borne along the back of the tall arched stems and each flower was about 3 cm across. The funnel-shaped flowers had a dent making them slightly squashed-looking, five lobes and a dark purple centre. According to my copy of Rose the plant has a strong smell, but I failed to notice this.
The flower stems resemble an animal spine with ribs in my opinion.
Henbane is in the same family as the Nightshades unsurprisingly.