Solanaceae is a family of around 3000 species, and includes some popular bedding plants, some of our most important food crops, but also includes a number of extremely toxic species. Floral characteristics include five petals and, often, a distinct coned 'nose' made up of the protruding style surrounded by the five anthers.
Petunias and lots of ornamental, sweetly-scented tobacco (Nicotiana) dominate the display, along with the more unusual Salpiglossis and Browallia. We also grow some of the important vegetable crops in the family such as tomatoes and chillis.
Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium) represent the more toxic Solanaceae members, some of which have long been used in low doses as medicine.
Henbane has is used as a sedative painkiller in homeopathic remedies but is so poisonous that ancient wisdom warned:
'If it be used in either sallet [salad] or pottage [stew], then doth It bring frenzie, and whoso useth more than four leaves shall be in danger to sleepe without waking.'
Given the fine line between an edible or poisonous family member, it is strongly advised that you enjoy the colourful display without touching the plants. Certainly do not be tempted to harvest any fruit or berry to augment your summer picnic!