Deadly nightshade growing next to a playground in Leicester
One of the world's most poisonous plants has been found growing beside a play area.
A large bush of deadly nightshade, which can be fatal for children who eat a few of its black berries, was discovered in the play area in Penny Park, off Upperton Road, in the city's West End.
Yesterday, after being alerted by the Mercury, Leicester City Council parks officers removed the plant from the site.
Parents of youngsters who play in the park expressed concern that it had been found in the play area.
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Mika Dolgelo, 29, who lives in Hinckley Road, was with his one-year-old son Krystin in the park yesterday.
"Kids play here all the time and it's terrible it has poisonous plants," he said. "I hope it's safe now."
Andrea Murphy, 34, who has children aged two and five and lives in Upperton Road, said: "We use the play area quite a lot and I had noticed a plant with big, black berries.
"It's quite worrying that it was growing there."
Conrad Webbe, 43, of Upperton Road, said: "Most people wouldn't recognise deadly nightshade – I certainly wouldn't.
"It's a kids' play area and it should be better maintained."
Adrian Russell, director of environmental services at the council, said: "The plant is one of a number of potentially hazardous wildflowers that grow in hedgerows and gardens across the country."
The sweet berries are edible for many animals, including rabbits and cows, but for humans the plant – Atropa belladonna – is one of the most toxic found in the Western Hemisphere.
Its poison attacks the central nervous system, causing convulsions and, in some cases, death.
Historically, it has been used to poison arrow tips and was a common method of murder in the Roman Empire.
Peter Gamble, president of Loughborough Naturalists' Club, said: "Of all the plants that grow naturally in this country, it is definitely one of the most dangerous.
"All of the plant is poisonous and the berries can be deadly if they're eaten.
"The berries start off green but grow to be big, black and shiny.
"There aren't many cases I can think of recently but occasionally you do get kiddies taking the berries thinking it's fruit and dying.
"Fortunately, it's rare nowadays as people rarely eat berries in the wild.
"Deadly nightshade would never be planted deliberately, except perhaps in a botanical garden."
Anyone who has concerns about plants in parks or play areas can report them to the city council on 0116 252 7003.