Solanum ptychanthum (Black Nightshade)

Plant Info
Also known as: Eastern Black Nightshade, West Indian Nightshade
Family:Solanaceae (Potato)
Life cycle:annual
  • Weedy
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; yards, woodland edges, roadsides, gravel pits, old fields, waste areas
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:10 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals

[photo of flowers] Small clusters of stalked flowers scattered along branching stems (not always at a leaf node), the flower stalks all mostly attached at the same point (umbellate), at the tip of the cluster's stalk. Flowers are ¼ to 1/3 inch across, star-shaped with 5 petals fused at the base, usually white, sometimes violet, and typically green at the base. Petals are spreading or curled back. In the center is a column of 5 yellow stamens surrounding a green style just visible at the tip of the column. The calyx is star-shaped with 5 triangular lobes and sparsely short-hairy.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are thin, alternate, 1 to 3 inches long, up to 2 inches wide, generally egg-shaped, pointed at the tip, rounded or wedge-shaped at the base, on a winged stalk. Edges are often wavy, and toothless or with a few large, blunt teeth. Surfaces are mostly sparsely hairy, more densely so on major veins on the underside.

[purplish leaf underside] The lower leaf surface may be light green or purple tinged. Stems are heavily branched, round to somewhat angled, hairless or sparsely hairy, and erect to sprawling.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a ¼ to 1/3-inch round berry that ripens to shiny black.


This native, weedy species was once listed as a county-level noxious weed and is part of the “Black Nightshade complex”, a group of related plants with very similar characteristics. The three species of concern here are: Solanum americanum, Solanum nigrum and Solanum ptychanthum. Some references treat these as synonyms of the same species, others as separate species, some as native, others as introduced or adventive. The DNR lists the species present in MN as S. nigrum var. virginicum, but we are following Michigan Flora's lead on this one and calling it S. ptychanthum. S. nigrum is more consistently considered a European introduction that is mostly present on the North American east and west coasts; its flower clusters are a more typical raceme (not umbellate) and flowers have a very small calyx, most noticeable on the fruit. S. americanum is a more southern native species whose unripe berries are speckled white, and does not have any purple tinged leaves. We don't believe the purple tinged leaves are a reliable trait in the field, however, since we had some difficulty finding any images showing this characteristic—nearly all of our own leaf images showed a green underside. Overall, Black Nightshade is also very similar to Hairy Nightshade (S. physalifolium), which is, as the common name suggests, densely hairy all over where Black Nightshade is sparsely hairy at best.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: someone - Cottage Grove
on: 2015-07-26 12:13:23

We have them here they grow on the fence by the shade of all the neighbors trees. In Fridley a friend found then in her garden.

Posted by: BW - Otsego
on: 2016-08-23 20:47:10

Growing outside the backdoor at my current place of employment between cement and blacktop in Champlin and planted pine areas in Uncas Dunes SNA.

Posted by: Shanna - Corcoran
on: 2017-07-08 14:37:15

I have this plant, but with purple flowers on it, growing along a fence in my yard. Is this something I need to get rid of? I'm not worried about anyone ingesting, but wondering if it's anything that might affect someone with skin contact?

Posted by: Laura - Columbia Heights, MN
on: 2017-08-24 07:31:16

Just discovered these have overtaken my garden. I planted a bunch of new plants this year thought this was perhaps a weird bean or something until I noticed the berries. It has out grown everything else in my garden! Looking online-- I found recipes with the berries, so hope to use the berries for jelly or something....

Posted by: Kristina K - Excelsior
on: 2017-09-30 20:20:37

These just started popping up in my planters.

Posted by: Johannes N - Moorhead
on: 2017-10-02 19:41:20

Have one plant growing smack dab in the middle of my front lawn. No idea how it got there. Have some bittersweet nightshade growing in my back yard too.

Posted by: Desie Mendenhall - Moorhead
on: 2018-08-12 17:25:52

These plants are growing all around our house. They are covered in berries some ripe, others still green. Are they poisonous, I have a toddler granddaughter and pets that I wouldn't want to get sick from these plants.

Posted by: Erin Green - Minneapolis
on: 2020-07-18 19:01:12

I didn't notice this in our yard last year but now it is growing all over, including right in the middle of the grass. Seems very easy to pull though.

Posted by: Mary Tanner - Duluth
on: 2020-08-29 12:10:19

I think I have this plant growing in two of my flower pots! I used the 'PlantSnap' app to try to identify it, and this is the app's response. The flowers are white, very miniature, and the berries began as dark green, then turned very dark/shiny black. Should I just pull them out? And I also discovered what I think may be a buckthorn next to my garage. Is there a way to get someone to come and check it out?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-08-29 17:15:47

Mary, yes that sounds like black nightshade. It's weedy and I pull it wherever I see it in my own yard. As for the buckthorn, you might ask a Master Gardener.

Posted by: Kellhy - Duluth
on: 2020-10-01 13:18:39

I just found this in my garden bed. This is the first time I've ever seen it. I will be pulling and destroying.

Posted by: Judy - Eagan
on: 2022-08-08 17:09:42

This plant has been popping up in my butterfly/bee garden for about 4 years. As soon as I see it it's out. Why does it keep coming back?

Posted by: Mandy Ness - Eyota
on: 2023-07-24 19:11:23

I get a crop of these every year!

Posted by: Gabriel - Minneapolis
on: 2023-10-25 13:55:12

This grows in my parents' yard. I let some of them grow now because they seem to be eaten by some kind of wildlife, with all those holes in the leaves, and I snack on the fully ripe berries (fully purple-black with individual berry stems beginning to detach from the umbel stem). The unripe berries taste unpleasant, which suggests they may be somewhat toxic, so I avoid them.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-10-25 17:51:32

Gabriel, as you suspected, the unripe fruit contains the highest concentration of toxins and should probably not be consumed.

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