Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet nightshade, European bittersweet)

Commonly found in backyards, parking lots, and along creeks, Bittersweet nightshade is a poisonous vine invasive in North America. Ingesting several berries is often very harmful, although much less fatal than poison nightshade. Since these spread via rhizomes (underground, even small root fragments can send up entire plants), nodes on particular prostrate stems (stems lying close to the ground), and seeds (which are commonly dispersed via birds), these can be quite difficult to get rid of. Thankfully, the unpleasant they produce often keeps pets and children from consuming them. If you see these and know children may be near them, however, you should remove them and inform anyone who may be at danger.

Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet nightshade, European bittersweet)
Deciduous: yes
Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Height: Reported to grow 9 meters (30 feet) tall by climbing on trees, the green or dark purple stems may reach 3 meters (10 feet) tall. Warmer winters may not kill off the stems (which are usually woody at the bases) entirely.
Diameter: up to 2.5 meters (8 feet)
Growth Rate: moderate to fast, potentially up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) per year
Age: perennial
Root System: Consists of spreading rhizomes, prostrate stems may take root at their nodes
Family: Solanaceae
Subspecies: none

Tolerates: shade, dry soils, flooded conditions, strong winds
Problems (major): The entire plant is poisonous. S. dulcamara is considered invasive.
Problems (minor): Colorado potato beetle
Poisonous: The berries (and entire plant) are toxic is consumed in moderate to large quantities, although far less poisonous than deadly nightshade.

Soil requirements: These grow in sandy (light), loamy (medium), and clay (heavy) soils. They prefers moist soils and are invasive in wetlands.
Air requirements: not sufficiently researched
Watering requirement: tolerates low watering, prefers frequent watering
Sun requirement: prefers full sun, survives in part shade, sometimes occuring in full shade

Leaf shape: oval, pointed, dark green, 2 leaflets may be present on larger leaves
Leaf size: 5-13 centimeters (2-5 inches) long
Flower structure: 5 purple (or blue) petals surround a bright yellow center (composed of fused anthers), around 1 centimeter (0.5 inches) long, occur in clusters
Flowering frequency: flowers mid-May to September, produces immature green, maturing orange, and mature red berries (containing up to 30
seeds per fruit)
Bulb/tuber: neither, has rhizomes
Monocot/Dicot: dicot
Annual/Biennial/Perennial: perennial

Notable characteristics:
Invasive in many abandoned areas, back yards, parking lots, and along creeks, bittersweet nightshade is poisonous if ingested in moderate to large quantities. The flowers are star-shaped, with five purple petals and a center consisting of fused anthers. The leaves may have two leaflets attached on their sides if they are large enough. These spread easily through rhizomes, prostrate stems, and seed dispersal (usually through birds).

Bittersweet nightshade has, historically, been used to combat skin ailments, breathing-related illnesses, and other various ailments. Do not use S. dulcamara for medicinal purposes without first consulting a licensed medical doctor.

Sources used:

A clusters of purple and yellow flowers

Multiple flower clusters among foliageImage
Smaller foliage (without leaflets)

The images provided were taken by me, and they may be used for educational/informational purposes only, provided that this blog or this article is appropriately cited/referenced. 


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