Black Henbane 

Black Henbane.

Black Henbane.

Interesting Facts

  • Has been used as a medicinal plant since the Middle Ages
  • Been used as a beer flavoring many years ago
  • All parts of the plant are poisonous to animals and humans
  • Has a foul odor and has been called “stinking nightshade”


Black Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) is covered with greasy hairs and has a thick, fleshy taproot.

  • Stems are upright, tough – almost woody - and can be very thick. Plants can grow to 1m or taller and may be branched or unbranched.
  • Leaves are alternate, large – up to 15 cm wide and 20 cm or more long – and have a heavy, foul scent. Leaf edges are shallowly lobed (variable) and veins are conspicuous.
  • Flowers are pale yellow with deep purple veins and throats and are borne on spikes. Flowers are hermaphroditic – both male and female organs – and have a strong, unpleasant smell. The flower base forms a 2.5 cm urn-shaped fruit with a thickened lid that pops off at maturity and spills the numerous, tiny, black-brown seeds is primarily by seed production and sprouting from lateral roots to a lesser extent.


Black henbane grows in a wide range of soil textures and pH but does require well drained soil. It does not tolerate shade.

Ecological Impacts

Black henbane usually establishes on disturbed or heavily grazed sites where it competes for moisture and nutrients with desirable plants. All parts of the plant are potentially poisonous.

Control & Management

Keys to successful control include prevention of seed production, depleting root reserves and killing seedlings before vegetative reproduction begins.

  • Grazing - Livestock will avoid Black henbane unless no other forage is available, therefore poisoning cases are rare. Dried plant matter in baled forage retains its toxic properties though, and will be readily consumed.
  • Cultivation - Does not survive cultivation but must be done before seed production to prevent spread.
  • Mechanical - Mowing is effective, but difficult because of its thick, tough stem. Hand pulling is also effective, but be sure to wear gloves and protective clothing to prevent rashes.
  • Chemical - Picloram, dicamba, metsulfuron, 2,4-D, and glyphosate can used pre-bloom.
  • Biological - None to date in the United States.