Nightshade, Snake Berry, Poison-flower, or Woody Nightshade – Flowers

(Solanum Dulcamara)

Potato family

Flowers–Blue, purple, or, rarely, white with greenish spots on each lobe ; about in. broad, clustered in slender, drooping cymes. Calyx 5-lobed, oblong, persistent on the berry; corolla deeply, sharply 5-cleft, wheel-shaped, or points curved back-ward; 5 stamens inserted on throat, yellow, protruding, the anthers united to form a cone; stigma small. Stem: Climbing or straggling, woody below, branched, 2 to 8 ft. long. Leaves: Alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 2 1/2 in. wide, pointed at the apex, usually heart-shaped at base; some with 2 distinct leaflets below on the petiole, others have leaflets united with leaf like lower lobes or wings. Fruit: A bright red, oval berry.

Preferred Habitat—Moist thickets, fencerows.

Flowering Season—May—September.

Distribution—United States east of Kansas, north of New Jersey. Canada, Europe, and Asia.

More beautiful than the graceful flowers are the drooping cymes of bright berries, turning from green to yellow, then to orange and scarlet, in the tangled thicket by the shady roadside in autumn, when the unpretending, shrubby vine, that has crowded its way through the rank midsummer vegetation, becomes a joy to the eye. Another bittersweet, so-called, festoons the hedge-rows with yellow berries which, bursting, show their scarlet-coated seeds. Rose hips and mountain-ash berries, among many other conspicuous bits of color, arrest attention, but not for us were they designed. Now the birds are migrating, and, hungry with their long flight, they gladly stop to feed upon fare so attractive. Hard, indigestible seeds traverse the alimentary canal without alteration and are deposited many miles from the parent that bore them. Nature’s methods for widely distributing plants cannot but stir the dullest imagination.

The purple pendent flowers of this nightshade secrete no nectar, therefore many insects let them alone; but it is now believed that no part of the plant is poisonous. Certainly one that claims the potato, tomato, and egg-plant among its kin has no right to be dangerous. The Black, Garden, or Deadly Nightshade, also called Morel (S. nigrum), bears jet-black berries that are alleged to be fatal. Nevertheless, female bumblebees, to which its white flowers are specially adapted, visit them to draw out pollen from the chinks of the anthers with their jaws, just as they do in the case of the wild, sensitive plant, and with no more disastrous result. It has been well said that the nightshades are a blessing both to the sick and to the doctors. The present species takes its name from dulcis, sweet, and amaras, bitter, referring to the taste of the juice; the generic name is derived from solamen, solace or consolation, referring to the relief afforded by the narcotic properties of some of these plants.