published: June 14, 2012
text: Franziska Humair
The Hidden Secrets of Plants
The Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) stated that nature was man's teacher. BOTANICA 2012 - the week of the botanical gardens - adopted his philosophy.
Picutre left: Different ripening stages of chili (Capsicum annuum). © Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service
From June 16th – 24th botanical gardens in Switzerland will present many exciting events to honour Rousseau's 300th birthday: excursions, lectures, discussions and many more.
Within BOTANICA, a special event from the perspective of Swiss plant research is highlighted:
a traveling exhibition on medicinal plants.
Beautifully Healthy! The Hidden Secrets of Plants is the final part of the various SPSW activities related to "Fascination of Plants Day 2012". The exhibition was set up by the SPSW in collaboration with Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) (Life Sciences and Facility Management).
Visit our traveling exhibition
Beautifully Healthy! The Hidden Secrets of Plants presents the fascinating family of the nightshades (Solanaceae).
The exhibit will be shown in the botanical gardens of Basel, Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, and Zurich in the context of BOTANICA 2012, the week of the botanical gardens.
After BOTANICA, during this coming August, the exhibition will be presented in the Alpinum Schatzalp Davos.
Picture above: Datura aurea, © Alex Bernhard, University of Zurich
The family of nightshades contains some of the most important food crops, such as potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, eggplants, and chili, but also ornamental plants like petunia or angel's trumpet.
However nightshades are also notorious for their alkaloids, e.g., nicotine, atropine, or capsaicine (figure left).
Capsaicine, © Gregor Meier, University of Basel
Effects of nightshade alkaloids on humans may be beneficial, yet very often they are highly detrimental.
Within living memory, nightshades, such as Belladonna also known as Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Angel's Trumpets (Datura sp.) or henbanes (Hyoscyamus sp.), are among the most important plants used as drugs. Their ingredients are applied to heal, however the edge between a healthy and a fatal dose is often very small.
To date, plant science knows a lot about the Solanaceae family, yet many secrets are still to be discovered. For more information, please visit the website on SOL 2012, the 9th Solanaceae Conference: From the Bench to Innovative Applications, August 26 - 30, University of Neuchâtel.