Doll’s eyes

We’ve spotted it on several occasions but it wasn’t until the weekend that we came across an individual pretty and pristine enough to tempt me. The fruits of Actaea surely do resemble their namesake, and are highly toxic. The sclera, the fleshy white berry, is the mature fruit and the pupil is the stigma scar. My guess is that pachypoda, its specific epithet, refers the stout, and beautifully colored, stems.

In quite another context a diagnosis of Doll’s eyes may be indicative of a traumatic brain injury. The brainstem forms the connection between the peripheral (sensory) nervous system and the central (processing) nervous system. The vestibulo-ocular reflex is responsible for stabilizing visual images, when you turn your head, by driving movements of the eyes in the opposite direction. Sensory information and motor impulses which coordinate this activity must pass the brainstem. Comatose patients whose eyes remain fixed, when the head is turned, are said to display Doll’s eyes. The condition indicates that the brainstem is, functionally, not intact.


10 thoughts on “Doll’s eyes

  1. Wow – it’s amazing that you automatically see ‘eyes’ in this image, before having read the text. Seems we are really hard-wired to see ‘faces’ everywhere (like in those photos often making rounds, houses with ‘faces’ etc.)

  2. They’re beautiful, and strange, and just slightly creepy, all at once. These are pristine examples, though — lucky you! As a group, they look like they belong in a science fiction novel: a creature from who-knows-where, with multiple eyes on stems, like Dungeons and Dragons monsters.

    • Joanna observed the same thing … that the plant looked like some creature, capable of seeing in all directions. I think the close view does indeed lend a sense of strangeness. I wonder why? It must be the ‘eye’ thing. Thanks for checking in Linda.

  3. Your posts continue to inform and delight. I have never seen such an interesting berry. Is it a bush? It is so beautifully colored, stem too, looks good enough to eat! Why are so many berries toxic? Are they safe for animals/birds?

    • They are toxic because berries/seeds don’t germinate when they are being digested inside the gut of one or another herbivore or omnivore. As it turns out, in this case, the berries are NOT toxic to birds … the seed survives the trip through the alimentary tract to be ‘deposited’ at a distance from the progenitor plant. Nice dispersal strategy, don’t you think? This isn’t a bush but a single plant with many fruit.

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