Nightshade, Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara L.)
About 1,500 Solanum species exist in the world, and they include some of the most common garden plants such as potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) and eggplant (Solanum melongena L.). One of the species, Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapcicum L.) is grown as a house plant for its compact form and small round berries which turn bright red at maturity. The tomato (Lycopercison esculentum Mill.) is also a related plant. Included in this entry are descriptions of Black Nightshade, Bittersweet Nightshade, Silverleaf Nightshade, and Horse Nettle. Other related species may be found under their own names.
Bittersweet nightshade is also known as European bittersweet or climbing nightshade. This plant grows from rhizomes and is a slender climbing or trailing perennial reaching 6 feet in length. Leaves are alternate, ovate, simple or deeply lobed, 1-1/2 to 4 inches long, and pointed at the tip. Flowers are deep purple or bluish purple with flower stalk arising between the leaf nodes or opposite the leaves. Nearly round fruits turn red when mature and stay on the vines through mid winter.
Black nightshade is an annual herb with a tap root. Stems are erect and much branched reaching 3 feet tall. Leaves alternate, ovate or lanceolate, and long-stalked. The flower has 5 white petals, sometimes with a yellow inner star, and ranges from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch across. Berries are round and about 1/4 or so inches across, green, and turn purplish to black when ripe. Immature berries and foliage are toxic, but ripe fruits are reportedly edible.
Plants commonly known as back nightshade may include two native species, American Black Nightshade (S. americanum P. Mill.) and Eastern Black Nightshade (S. ptycanthum Dun.), as well as S. nigrum which was introduced from Europe and is widely naturalized. Solanum ptycanthum may be more commonly found in the midwest since S. americanum appears to be more concentrated in the southern states.
A perennial with a deep taproot and rhizome below ground. Its stem and leaves have yellowish spines and sometimes are hairy. Leaves are alternate and ovate with irregularly wavy or lobed margins. Flowers appear in June to August, are light purple to white, 3/4 to 1 inch across, and in short racemes near the top of the plant. Petals are united with 5 points at the margin. Fruits are globose, about 1/2 inch in diameter and yellow when mature. Yellow or brownish seeds are numerous, and irregularly circular, about 1/8 inch across.
This perennial herb gets its common name because of its silvery appearance caused by the numerous fine hairs. Its thick, lanceolate leaves are wavy and roughly indented (sinuate). The stems and parts of the leaves have short stiff spines. The flowers appear at the end of branches and have petals which are pale to deep blue or lavender in color.
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