In Dutch I’m called ‘wolfskers’, ‘wolf-cherry’. My branches bear large berries that ripen to a glossy black, and look like cherries.
There are several possible explanations for the word ‘wolf’ in my name. I’m a very poisonous plant, and several other poisonous plants have popular names that include the word ‘wolf’:
‘wolfsdood’ (wolfsbane), for example, and ‘wolfsbes’ (‘Paris quadrifolia’, herb Paris).
Another explanation is that my black berries resemble the eyes of an angry wolf, and it is said that in the old days I was used to poison wolves – and enemies, too.
In Dutch I’ve also been called doodskers (death-cherry), ‘dolkruid’ (crazy-weed) and ‘heksenkruid’ (witch-weed), all names that have to do with my poisonous nature.
And I have some wonderful names in English. The most common of these is Deadly nightshade, as I’m the deadliest member of the nightshade plant family that includes the tomato and the potato. My many folk names include Murderer’s berry, Beautiful death, and Devil’s herb.