Ontario Weeds: Climbing nightshade

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Flowers and Fruit
  7. Habitat
  8. Similar Species
  9. Caution
  10. Related Links

Name: Climbing nightshade, Solanum dulcamara L.,

Other Names: morelle douce-amère, Bitter nightshade, Bittersweet, Climbing bittersweet, Deadly nightshade, douce-amère

Family: Nightshade or Potato Family (Solanaceae

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by seed and by spreading underground rhizomes.

Photos and Pictures

Climbing nightshade. A. flowering stem B. stem with green and red berries.
Climbing nightshade. A. flowering stem
B. stem with green and red berries.

Climbing nightshade.

Climbing nightshade. Climbing nightshade.

Stems & Roots: Stems partially woody, weak, erect or vine-like and climbing over fence lines and other vegetation, 1-3m (3-10ft) long, usually dying back close to the ground each year but in milder areas or if protected by snow becoming thick and woody in the lower part, hairless or short-hairy, with lengthwise-shredding, light gray bark; leaves alternate (1 per node), simple or lobed with 1 or more lobes near the base giving them a mitten-like appearance

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers in much-branched clusters; each flower star-shaped with a 5-pointed light blue to violet or rarely white corolla, in the centre of which is a slender pyramid of 5 united bright yellow stamens); flowers followed by oblong green berries 8-12mm (1/3-½in.) long which turn bright red and juicy when ripe. Flowers in June and July; berries ripening in August and often remaining on the stems into the winter. Stems, roots, leaves and sometimes the green berries have a disagreeable civet-cat odour when bruised.

Habitat: Climbing nightshade occurs throughout Ontario in open woods, edges of fields, fence lines, roadsides, and occasionally in hedges and gardens.

Similar Species: It is distinguished by its vine habit, its shredding light gray back on older stems, its usually mitten-shaped leaves, its juicy red berries, and its strong disagreeable odour.

Caution: Stems and leaves are poisonous to livestock. The attractive, bright red berries have a bitter and sweet flavour, and, although some people can apparently eat them without harm, children have reputedly been poisoned by eating them.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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