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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Climbing nightshade

Scientific 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.

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

Stems & Roots

  • Stems partially woody, weak, erect or vine-like and climbing over fence lines and other vegetation, 1-3m (3-10ft) long.
  • 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. 

Often Confused With/Distinguishing Characteristics
It is distinguished by its vine habit, its shredding light gray back on older stems, its usually mitten-shaped flowers, 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.


Climbing nightshade flowers Climbing nightshade berries Climbing nightshade Climbing nightshade Climbing nightshade Climbing nightshadeClimbing nightshadeClimbing nightshade
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