Back to black
Back from our few relaxing days in West Wales and an urgent task was to check the cattle grazing at the nature reserve. The three black Dexters hardly stopped munching scrub to welcome me back. I was slightly alarmed to find they had been browsing some of the deadly nightshade - almost all the vegetation has been eaten, leaving a few spindly stems decorated with shiny black berries. Atropa belladonna is one of the most toxic of our native plants and is dotted around the reserve, where it has escaped the spades of nervous countryfolk in the surrounding villages, worried about the possibility of children poisoning themselves. As well as containing high levels of extremely poisonous tropane alkaloids, this rather beautiful plant is well-known as a source of oil that can dilate the pupils of eyes for both medical and seductive effect, hence the latin name, meaning "beautiful woman". The cows seemed lively enough and gazing into their always beautiful eyes, I could not detect any abnormal level of seductiveness, so I assumed all was well. Later, I checked various internet sources and found that cattle do not seem to be affected by eating the leaves and stems, at least.