Solanum dulcamara aka Bittersweet Nightshade

Nightshade Family

Solanum Dulcamara

For years I has this type vine growing along the fence close to the house, over the years (15 years) it really didn’t do to much – other than get a few berries on it after some tiny bunches of yellow and purple flowers. No biggie I thought way back when – just leave it there because I didn’t know what it was – but looked nice with the berries changing from green to yellow to orange then finally shiny bright red. Actually I thought it was some sort of wild holly berry vine.

Anyhows, 15 years later I was trimming along the fence line and I noticed it, again, tucked into all the growth along that side of the fence. So, I figured I’d trim away all the growth so this plant can thrive. Well, it turns out this vine isn’t really a vine after all because it has a hard wood base with vine type branches all over. Looks like a vine, acts like a vine but really isn’t a vine kinda thing. I took these pictures for reference.

I took care not to damage this plant, cut off all the dead stems and trimmed it so it’s looks taken care of. Still at this point no idea what it is. Ha

Later last night I decided to Google and find out just what this plant it. Wouldn’t ya know, here it’s a seriously toxic and poisonous plant. I was like, what ? I just spent 3 hours with this plant cleaning it up and all touchy with it and now I find out it’s poisonous.

So after about 2 hours on Google last night researching about this individual plant – I decided to keep it and take care of it. (I’ll explain a bit later)

This plant is called the Bittersweet Nightshade. It also has many other names like Woody Nightshade, Poison Berry, Poison Flower, Scarlet Berry, Snake Berry, Blue Bindweed, (why blue is beyond me because mine has purple and yellow flowers) Fellenwart, Felonwood, Amara Dulcis, Violet Bloom, etc. The scientific name is Solanum Dulcamara. And according to all the websites I see it’s in the potato and tomato family.

Bittersweet Berries (green) Solanum Dulcamara

Bittersweet Berries (green)

Some interesting facts:

All parts of the plant are poisonous. One of the most poisonous native plants. Because it belongs to the Nightshade tribe it’s a narcotic – in other words all parts of the plant highly poisonous. The unripe leaves and berries of this plant contain the toxin called Solanine. When ingested in large quanities can prove fatal.  Solanine acts narcotically, in large doses it paralyses the central nervous system, without affecting the peripheral nerves or voluntary muscles. It slows the heart and respiration, lessens sensibility, lowers the temperature and causes vertigo and delirium, terminating in death with convulsions.

Many people (mostly in England) grow this plant to ward off evil, curses and spirits associated with Witchcraft. In witchcraft, shepherds used to hang it as a charm round the necks of their livestock  thought to be under an evil eye. Also, one website said even today in England this plant is seen along hedge lines in alot of popular places.

Solanum Dulcamara

Bittersweet Leaves

Older Doctors valued Bittersweet highly and applied it to many purposes in medicine and surgery. It’s known back as far as Theophrastus, and one website said it was used for medicine in the thirteenth century.

Interesting plant to say the least, I’m glad I now know what it is.

All that said, I decided to keep my Bittersweet plant, take care of it,  study it, blog about the different stages of berry colors, leaf growth and the over all health of my plant. I fancy Brugmansia‘s (which are also concidered a very poisonous plant) I’ve touched them , cut them, planted and replanted them, for over 15 years and I’ve never noticed a sickness or irritation at all. I even hand pollinate to create hybrid seed pods .. so being careful – I look forward to showing off my newly identified Bittersweet plant.

Solanum Dulcamara

Bittersweet Flowers

5 thoughts on “Solanum dulcamara aka Bittersweet Nightshade

  1. Nightshades (solanum sp.) are in the same family (solanaceae) as peppers (capsicum sp.), tomatoes (solanum lycopersicum), mandrakes (mandragora sp.), and potatoes (solanum tuberosum), which are all edible (though some are hallucinogenic). Strange, huh?


  2. Ya I know. Interesting plant the Bittersweet. I also read while researching – that if you eat a (not ripe) green potato or green tomato they too has a high level of Solanine and can harm you and your central nervous system. I guess that’s why people fry the green tomato’s to eat them. I never knew that either.


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