Bittersweet Nightshade

Scientific Name: Solanum dulcamara
Family Name: Solanaceae

Flower: A drooping flower, ½ in. (1.5 cm.) wide, pink or purple, five-petaled with a yellow center. The petals are often pushed back to the stem, giving a good view of the yellow center.

Leaf: 3.5 in. (9 cm.) long leaf. The leaves are irregular, but often grow with two basal lobes: one long central leaf, with two much smaller leaves flanking it from the stem on each side.

Copyright: Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002

Plant: Bittersweet Nightshade is a climbing vine. It grows 2 – 8 ft. (60 – 240 cm.) tall, but when it has nothing to climb up, it will grow as a shorter plant.

Identifying Characteristics: The three lobed leaves with two basal lobes are unique to Bittersweet Nightshade. The berries, which when halved, look like a miniature tomato, also help to identify it.

Location: We found Bittersweet Nightshade growing on the Brandeis University campus beside the road that leads to the Sachar Economics building.

History and Comments: Bittersweet Nightshade is native to Eurasia, and was introduced to the United States as an ornamental vine in the early 19th century. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is considered a noxious weed in 35 states. Fore more information, click Bittersweet Nightshade escaped cultivation and is now considered a weed. It is called bittersweet, because it tastes bitter with a sweet aftertaste. However, its leaves and unripe berries contain the toxin Solanine, which while not fatal, can be harmful if eaten.

    Unless otherwise specified, all text, photographs, and drawings are Copyright (c) by Shu-Yee Chen and Deborah Hamer 2003. No part of this page may be reproduced without prior written consent of the authors.