June 14, 2018

Rare Henbanes (Hyoscyamus sp. div.)

To genus Hyoscyamus (family Solanaceae) belong about 10-20 species (depending on the taxonomic approach) which occur in wild state in Eurasia or North Africa. All of them are toxic and some were used in medicine and as intoxicant. The Henbanes have also very lovely colorful flowers and can be quite ornamental.
Small Henbane (Hyoscyamus pusillus) - dwarf species
Their seeds need to germinating a period of coldness (cold stratification by a few months) or soaking in GA3 solution (2000ppm by 24 hours). Then they germinate easily if sown surface or shallowly. The typical species - H. niger (Black Henbane) (and probably also other species in exotic areas) - can be a dangerous weed on poppy fields (it has very similar seeds to poppies and can cause poisonings if occurs numerously).
The most known species is Hyoscyamus niger - Black Henbane, which grows commonly in distributed synanthropic areas in Europe and Asia. It blooms in June to September in Central Europe, but there exists West Asian form which flower from early May to June. It does not differ much from European form in other features. It creates typical bronze-purple-yellow flowers, but looks very exotic in spring when the most of shrubs around are only starting to developing the leaves. It is biennial and probably very frost hardy (but I wintered it in pot in cool cellar so I have not check its frost resistance). This is a very little known form and hard to find in trading.
This is biennial herb
It starts to blooming in early May
And looks very strange in this time
It is pollinated by bees
Young capsules covered by enlarged calyxes
This plant is monocarpic
The close relative to H. niger is Hyoscyamus agrestis (syn. H. niger subsp. agrestis) – Annual Black Henbane. It is much rarer in wild state and differs from typical species by uniformly yellow flowers and its annual life form. It can be much smaller than common Black Henbane.
It is very different than common Black Henbane
The other species, which is very ornamental, is Hyoscyamus albus – White Henbane. It is native to Southern Europe. It can be annual or biennial (there exists both forms in various areas) and it is not full hardy in my zone 6b. It is said to be hardy only to zone 7. I grew a biennial form and kept my plant on window sill in winter. It creates very lovely flowers which of the centerschange the color with age.
One year old plants
The younger flowers have green centers and the older - purple ones
The flowers of this species are very ornamental
The plant with young fruits
The last rare species which I grew is Small Henbane - Hyoscyamus pusillus. This is dwarf annual creeping caespitose herb. It grows in numerous areas in Asia on sandy steppes and semi-deserts (I grew a form origin to Kazakhstan harvested on Ketmen, altitude 1800 m, from semi-desert steppe). This is very lovely herb with small bright yellow flowers with dark spots. It needs very short growing period (from seed to seed - only about 2-3 months). Seeds of this species are hard to find.

This plant is very hairy
The flower bud
The flowers are small but lovely
Young fruits (capsules in enlarged calyxes)
This is small creeping annual herb
If you have available seeds on any other rare species of Henbane or its cousins please write to me.

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