Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Enchanter’s Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)

A woodland plant with inconspicuous two-petaled flowers whose odd shape deserves a closer look, perhaps with a glass. This plant grew in a small, shady clearing in the woods in Mount Lebanon, where it was blooming in the middle of June.

Enchanter’s Nightshade has a longstanding reputation as a sorcerer’s plant, and indeed it may have been brought from Europe for that purpose. Modern magic-supply houses often sell the seeds.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CIRCAEA [Tourn.] L. ENCHANTER’S NIGHTSHADE
Calyx-tube slightly prolonged, the end filled by a cup-shaped disk, deciduous; lobes 2, reflexed. Fruit indehiscent, small and bur-like, bristly with hooked hairs, 1-2-celled; cells 1-seeded. —Low perennials, with opposite leaves on slender petioles, and small whitish flowers in racemes, produced in summer. (Named for Circe, the enchantress.)

C. lutetiana L. Tall (3-9 dm. high); leaves ovate, tending to ovate-oblong, mostly rounded at the base, of rather firm texture, slightly toothed; 7 bracts none; hairs of the roundish pyriform 2-celled fruit bristle-like (rarely wanting). Common in dry open woods, N. S. to Ont., and southw. (Eu.)

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