Solanum dulcamara

Bittersweet Nightshade

Botanical description: A perennial, rhizomatous vine, Solanum dulcamara can be seen twining over other plants, trailing along the ground or growing erect, to a length of ten or more feet. The semi-woody plant can rise to great lengths each year, even if the stems have died or been cut to the ground the previous season. Bittersweet nightshade also has the ability to sucker, sending up new shoots at various points along the root system. Solanum dulcamara is highly adaptable, tolerant of compaction as well as periods of standing water; it can be found in dry sites as well as in riparian habitats. The dangerously enchanting flowers and fruit of the bittersweet nightshade make it an instantly recognizable member of the cosmopolitan flora. Attractive, small purple flowers, centered with a ‘beak’ of yellow anthers are followed by shiny, bright red fruit—all parts of which are considered toxic to humans. Flowers and fruits occur together on the same plant throughout the summer. The fruits are dispersed by the numerous birds and mammals that eat them, including black bear, deer, raccoon, rabbits, and skunk. Its woody structure creates a dark and impenetrable shelter for small animals and its flower is a major food source for bumble bees.