Solanum dulcamara - Bittersweet nightshade

Solanaceae


Bittersweet nightshade is a woody perennial with a vining habit. It reproduces by seed and/or layering. It is native to Europe, and occurs most often in fencerows and drainage ditches. I rarely see this plant in maintained nursery crops, although it is common among landscapes.

There is no agreed upon derivation for the generic name of this plant. Clark suggests that it may be derived from the word solamen, which means soothing (Clark, Lewis J., Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest). Soothing would be appropriate considering the narcotic and toxic qualities of the plant's foliage and berries. The plant contains high levels of a bitter and toxic alkaloid called solanine. The specific name 'dulcamara' is latin and directly translated to mean bittersweet.

Leaves can be deeply lobed at the base or simple without lobes. Although on any given branch one will usually find at least several of the deeply lobed leaves shown below.

Leaves are arranged alternately along the stem.

Each flower has 5 purple to white petals, and contrasting yellow stamen that surround the solitary pistil. Looking closely, you can see the stigma protruding from the surrounding yellow stamens on each flower below.

Flowers occur in large clusters.

Berries are initially green and mature to bright red.

Berries are 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide, and slightly longer than wide.


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