Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Circaea alpina - Enchanter's-nightshade


Notes: "Two subspecies occur in BC:

Habitat / Range: "Moist to wet forests in the lowland and montane zones; frequent throughout BC; circumboreal, N to AK and NT, E to NF and S to GA, SD, CO and CA; Eurasia." [IFBC-E-flora] "This species grows in deep woods below 8,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada." [Vizgirdas WPSN]

Ecological Indicator Information: "A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane. Western North American forb distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in maritime to submaritime cool mesothermal climates on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-rich soils, often with a fluctuating groundwater table. Its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation, precipitation, and continentality. Common on water­receiving (flooded) sites in the herbaceous understory of broad-leaved forests (black cottonwood, broad-leaved maple, or red alder); often inhabits exposed mineral soil. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." [IPBC-E-flora]

Medicinal Use

"Lesser Enchanters Nightshade (Circaea alpina L.) The Forest Potawatomi considered this plant adventive to their territory and have no name or use for it to our knowedge. Among the whites,190 the whole plant has been considered of value in dispelling or resolving tumors and healing fresh cuts or wounds." [HuronSmith Zuni]


"In temperate forest communities, for example, there is usually a mix of light-seeded, ruderale herbaceous species that rapidly occupy disturbed sites and maintain slope stability. The dominant species is fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium L.); should this species decline dramatically, a few other subdominants (e.g., Circaea alpina L., Urtica dioica L.) could fill the same functional role, thus providing response diversity to disturbance. At the same time, these species, along with other herbs in the community, are functionally dissimilar in certain traits (e.g., take up water or nutrients from different soil depths), providing functional diversity (i.e., niche complementarity)." [Azcon-Aguilar MFPEI]


"Perennial herb from tuber-tipped rhizomes or stolons. Leaf: opposite, petioled, entire to toothed; stipules present, occasionally deciduous. Inflorescence: raceme or panicle. Flower: hypanthium present; biradial; sepals 2, often reflexed, deciduous after flower (along with other flower parts); petals 2, erect; stamens 2, pollen yellow, grains shed singly; ovary chambers 1–2, stigmas maturing before anthers. Fruit: indehiscent, generally club-shaped, bur-like with hooked hairs. Seed: 1 per chamber, adhering to inner fruit wall.
8 species: northern hemisphere. (Greek: Circe, the enchantress) [Wagner et al. 2007 Syst Bot Monogr 83:78–81] Often self-pollinated." [Jepson] "A genus of 8 species (14 taxa), herbs, of temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere." [Weakley FSMAS]

Circaea is a myophile because it is regularily pollinated by flies. [Barrows ABDR2]

Aphid Plant; Circaea sp. - Aphis fabae [Blackman AWHPS]

Local Species;

  1. Circaea alpina - Enchanter's-nightshade [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]

Uses of Other Species

"Circaea canadensis (Linnaeus) Hill ssp. canadensis, Canada Enchanter's-nightshade. Mt (GA, KY, NC, VA, WV), Pd (DE, GA, NC, SC, VA), Cp (DE, GA, KY, NC, VA), Ip (KY): mesic, nutrient-rich forests; common (rare in SC). June-August. NS and NB west to se. MB and ND, south to e. NC, c. SC, s. GA, LA, OK, and NE. The systematics of this taxon is controversial, and the best treatment is still unclear." [Weakley FSMAS]

" Circaea lutetiana; "Europe, western and central Asia, North Africa, North America Though Circaea lutetiana features in the Anglo-Saxon herbals as a plant of semi-magical potency, its sole use in British folk medicine appears to have been in the Highlands (where it could have been C. ×intermedia Ehrhart, its widespread hybrid with the rare C. alpina Linnaeus) as an aphrodisiac, given by girls to their lovers without their knowing. The plant was claimed, when placed in water, to make it bubble.86" [MPFT]

"A related [to C. alpina] species, C. lutetiana (broadleaf enchanter’s nightshade), was used by the Iroquois as a dermatological aid (on wounds). They also made an infusion as a wash on injured parts (Chamberlain 1901)." [Vizgirdas WPSN]

"Circaea ×sterilis Boufford, Hybrid Enchanter's-nightshade. Mt (NC, VA, WV): mesic, nutrient-rich forests; rare. June-August. C. ×sterilis is reported to occur frequently in the absence of one or both of its parents (Z, Skvortsov 1979), and is therefore treated separately and keyed here. It ranges from NL (Newfoundland) west to ON and MN, south to w. NC, OH, and WI.... Recognition of C. canadensis (Linnaeus) Hill as distinct from C. lutetiana renders the hybrid binomial name C. ×intermedia inappropriate for North American plants, since it is the hybrid of C. alpina ssp. alpina and the European C. lutetiana." [Weakley FSMAS]

Journals of Interest


Page last modified on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 3:19 AM