Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade)
|Also known as:||Climbing Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Woody Nightshade|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; woods, thickets, waste areas|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 8 foot vine|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Branching clusters of stalked flowers arising from leaf axils and at the tips of branching stems. Flowers are ½ inch across, 5 purple petals that are flaring to tightly curled back. Protruding like a missile in the center is a yellow column of stamens with a slender style extending at the tip. The calyx has 5 short triangular lobes; the calyx and stalk are smooth to sparsely hairy.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are 1¼ to 4 inches long, ¾ to 2½ inches wide, generally egg-shaped tapering to a pointed or blunt tip, smooth to sparsely hairy, toothless, with a stalk up to ¾ inch long. Most leaves have 2 small lobes at the base of the leaf that do not quite appear to be part of the blade. Stems are many branched, hairless to sparsely hairy, and lack tendrils, the stems climbing up anything nearby or becoming bushy depending on the particular site. Prostrate stems root at the nodes, the roots can sucker profusely, creating sizable patches. Lower stems are woody, the leafy branches dying back each year.
While this plant isn't as deadly as one of its common names suggests, the berries can make you sick if eaten in any quantity. This is likely a very under-reported weed in Minnesota, commonly found in yards, field and woodland edges, vacant lots, shorelines, and other disturbed, partly shady, average to moist soils. It popped up in my yard and, left to its own devices, spread like crazy, but wasn't too difficult to control with hand pulling followed by a thick layer of mulch.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in my yard in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?