Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade)

Plant Info
Also known as: Climbing Nightshade, Deadly Nightshade, Woody Nightshade
Genus:Solanum
Family:Solanaceae (Potato)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:Eurasia
Status:
  • Weedy
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):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 Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flower] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of berries] Fruit is a ¼-inch, green, oval to egg-shaped berry that ripens to shiny red.

Notes:

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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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in my yard in Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

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

Posted by: Stephanie - St Paul
on: 2008-08-04 21:27:50

This plant is growing amongst the raspberries in my backyard garden in the Como Park neighborhood. Never noticed it before this year. The red berries are hanging right next to my raspberries. I'm wondering how dangerous they are since I have a 3 year old and children frequently visit my raspberry patch. Very pretty plant, though, and if it's not that poisonous, then I wouldn't want to rip it out. But if it IS fairly poisonous, then I would also appreciate tips on how to safely and effectively remove it from my garden.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2008-08-05 07:34:41

I would remove it, especially since you have it growing near other berry-producing plants. Best to get it before it spreads and takes over your yard, like it almost did in mine. Pulling isn't likely to be effective because the stems are pretty weak and will only break off, then it will just resprout. Herbicides like weed-be-gone should be effective.

Posted by: Auslaug
on: 2009-04-18 13:24:11

I would remove it. Although you aren't likely to see violent sickness as with its sister plant deadly nightshade, the berries can cause nausea in any quantity. Be sure to remove it quickly, as with most weeds bittersweet nightshade can easily choke away other plants and claim your yard.

Posted by: Kate
on: 2009-06-04 20:44:34

Definitely remove it. Bittersweet noxious is not native to North America, and is considered an invasive noxious weed: http://www.invasive.org/species/subject.cfm?sub=6448

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-06-05 06:56:14

I just want to mention that the term "noxious weed" has a very specific meaning. The MN Dept of Agriculture categorizes those plants into various primary and secondary groups of prohibited or restricted species, some of which are only considered noxious in some counties rather than statewide. Most "noxious" plants on the lists are actually agricultural pests, not necessarily ecological pests.

So while it is true that bittersweet nightshade is non-native and can be a pest, it is not on the official Minnesota Noxious Weed list.

Posted by: kirsten - eveleth
on: 2010-10-02 04:33:41

I have this junk all over my yard. At first I thought it was pretty, but now I just want to trash and burn it. It pops up everywhere and if it gets big by anything, it will push up concrete or move other plants easily. Good luck getting rid of it...it still shows up even through nothing alive will touch the berries!!

Posted by: Beth - Rochester
on: 2011-06-18 08:00:18

I have seen this in both Moorhead and now in Rochester. When I lived in Moorhead it grew all through and around my beautiful Miss Kim lilac and killed it. If the ground is really soft you can pull it out which for me was the most effective way of eradicating it.

Posted by: Deb - Hutchinson, backyard in town
on: 2011-07-21 11:21:31

It is taking root in some landscaped dirt we dumped under our evergreen and quickly growing to vine through adjacent fencing. I'm pulling it today! Thanks for the information!!!!

Posted by: Kari - Bloomington
on: 2011-08-07 15:38:51

Yep, same in my backyard, specifically in the corners by where the fence edges meet. I've a toddler and an infant, so these need to go now.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-08-07 19:41:56

I had a pretty large infestation under the trees that surround my yard. Last year we pulled everything then spread a thick layer of wood chips over it. So far very little has come up through the wood chips and anything that does gets yanked before it has a chance to flower. So far so good.

Posted by: Lyelle - Winona
on: 2011-08-17 11:22:01

A few purple nightshade plants were in our front yard native prairie grass garden. The city inspector spotted them and advised removal--done. Both the blossoms and berries are colorful, but to be safe for kids they must go. Teach kids that bright red means "STOP--Don't eat me!" My 5-yr-old grand-daughter brought up the color code for safe eating on a recent outing in St. Paul at the Lilydale park fossil area, so the nature educators are on the job.

Posted by: Chris - Hermantown
on: 2012-01-18 09:17:33

I have had one plant that comes back every year. Near a run off, hasn't been a problem.

Posted by: Jenny - washington county
on: 2012-02-22 14:18:19

this plant cross pollinated with my tomato plants i didn't know about it until eating one of the reached tomatos they made me vomit followed buy terrible vertigo

Posted by: georgeanne - morristown mn
on: 2012-05-29 10:15:15

just cut down bitter night shade that was taking over my clamatis trellis

Posted by: Kay - Hennipin County
on: 2012-05-29 16:46:49

I'd like to point out that this is NOT deadly nightshade. Although it is poisonous, deadly nightshade is a different species.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-29 17:00:42

Kay, I'd like to point out that some plants go by many common names, and the same common name can apply to more than one species. That's the problem using only common names to identify a particular species. So, deadly nightshade may refer to this as well as other species.

Posted by: Brie - north minneapolis
on: 2012-05-29 23:09:43

Just when I think I've finally gotten rid of this weed it pops up somewhere else in my yard. Very persistent weed.

Posted by: Theo
on: 2012-07-16 15:27:03

I have seen these around the Westwood nature center marsh here in St Louis park. Its why I came to this website. Sure is pretty for an invasive poison weed lol.

Posted by: C Heady - Duluth
on: 2012-07-29 08:46:58

I recently moved to Duluth and am attempting to identify the types of plants growing in my yard -- both native and non-native. While doing so, I spotted the diminutive, pretty flowers and delicate vine of a nightshade plant in the shade under a cedar tree that grows near the sidewalk on the northeast side of my house. I was hoping that it was a native plant, but after checking this web site, found that it is an invasive species ----- so out it will come today and into the garbage it will go. Thanks for the information. I'm using your web site quite a bit these days!

Posted by: Beverly - Woodbury
on: 2012-07-30 22:44:51

We just found some of this plant in our yard. It was the first time we have spotted it. We pulled it out and hope it won't return.

Posted by: TA - St. Michael/Albertville
on: 2012-08-05 13:21:23

Like others, stumbled upon this page looking for info on this plant. Discovered by accident that we had this growing along the fence behind our shed when my 2 year-old ran up to me in the yard yesterday and said, "Mommy! Peas!" He had a handful of the green unripened berries. :-/ Asked him to show me where the "peas" were and found multiple vines weaving between the fence. That area of the yard is very shady, moist, and isolated. I'm emailing the neighbors (they have young kids, too, and we both have dogs) and hopefully we'll get rid of it

Posted by: Alika - Minneapolis
on: 2012-09-01 17:37:07

I hate this plant. I am contantly pulling it, as I don't like using herbicides. Is there another way to rid myself of this plant if pulling doesn't work?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-09-02 01:22:01

Alika, pull everything you can then smother it with lots of mulch. We used wood chips and it has been quite effective.

Posted by: Kristen - St. Louis County--Duluth
on: 2012-09-02 20:35:42

My uncle found this amongst his hedges and wondered what this strange vine was and he thought perhaps he didn't want it in there since it seemed to be choking the other things. This was helpful info with the pictures and measurements to help ID this plant and confirm why no wildlife wanted to eat the berries. Found in Duluth MN.

Posted by: Steve - northern Rice county west of Northfield MN. 55057
on: 2013-10-28 18:31:25

found these growing in a small thicket by my property line between yards.

Posted by: A.J.
on: 2014-06-03 11:14:02

Is it safe to burn what gets pulled?

Posted by: Jennifer
on: 2014-06-07 16:13:16

This is considered an invasive by the Forest Service: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/bittersweet-nightshade.pdf. Why is this listed on a Minnesota wildflower list when it isn't even native to North America?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-11 06:07:06

Jennifer, our goal is to profile ALL plants found in the wild, not just natives. People want to know which are the weeds, too, and it's important to teach that as well. The chart of general plant info that's at the top of the page indicates whether it is native or not.

Posted by: Colleen - Chaska
on: 2014-06-27 09:39:46

Found a lot of this flower growing along a path in Jonathan and never knew what it was. It is rather pretty!

Posted by: April - Minniesota
on: 2014-07-22 02:10:59

R they poisn to dogs

Posted by: kris - Owatonna
on: 2014-08-10 11:44:38

Just discovered this growing on the edge of our woods. I have been here over 20yrs, but this is the first year I noticed it. Sorry to hear its not a native plant.

Posted by: Mary - Savage
on: 2014-09-14 16:15:30

Found this invading my daughter's flower garden and shade garden as well as climbing up her pine trees. I pulled lots of it with the red berries this weekend. Very invasive but easy to pull out.

Posted by: Rachael - Cromwell
on: 2014-12-22 11:21:59

It started in our yard under balsam fir trees about 4 years ago, we began to remove it once we found out its berries were toxic. It has now spread to the ash swamp next to our yard. This summer it really progressed in the ash swamp and has become very thick throughout.

Posted by: Tim - Lindstrom
on: 2015-06-06 12:59:00

This vine has almost choked out our evergreen bushes.

Posted by: Chris - Mapleton MN
on: 2015-06-21 19:51:25

I just found this growing in my back yard flower bed....It was not a plant I had planted and had to come here to locate what it was. It is a beautiful plant but after reading the posts here I plant to remove it immediately...I have many birds come to my back yard every year in the spring and wonder if maybe it was brought to me by them.

Posted by: wanda - Western Minnesota
on: 2015-06-22 13:18:31

This plant started under my deck a few years ago... we cut off the branches that were sticking through the floorboards and left the rest. BIG MISTAKE... the next year, this plant spread to all the bushes around my deck and choked them out.. we pulled them a few times a season, however, nothing seems to kill them. The year after they spread to my blue spruce and took that over, and then to all the bushes around my home, choking out my dogwood and basically making a big mess. This stuff grows so fast, you can pull these all weekend and the next weekend there are 1ft vines back. A few times a year we pull these suckers and fill the back of a pickup overflowing. :-(. I am checking with an extension agent to see what we can do to control this stuff!!! rant over

Posted by: Rob - Brooklyn park
on: 2015-07-04 13:38:12

We just moved into our house a week ago and noticed this bastard growing everywhere. The previous owners must have liked the flowers because it was everywhere. Damn near filled a 90 gallon garbage can with its weeds and roots. When left to grow, apparently, the roots are about as thick as a broom handle and incredibly long. Its a pain to get them out. Some roots have gone under the house.

Posted by: Justin M - St.Peter 56082
on: 2015-07-04 18:44:36

Having a problem with it every year i pull it roots and all it comes back even changed the dirt and before i changed the dirt i used herbicide to see if i could kill it but nothing working if i cut the stems to the roots off no joke with in a week it grows back today 7/4/15 i removed it by the roots it i comes back i calling the MDA or USDA to see what can be done cos i have a small dog she likes trying to eat it i Don't know what i Would do if god forebid ever happens to her

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-07-05 11:09:14

Justin, try pulling out all you can then add a thick layer of wood chips for mulch. It worked for us. Didn't see a sign of it for several years after that. Some is coming back now but we're putting down a fresh layer of chips which should keep it at bay.

Posted by: notinks - Luverne
on: 2015-07-26 10:29:06

Well now this is embarrassing....I actually transplanted this from my back yard weed garden to a nice place up front by my porch thinking it was very pretty. I'll be yanking it out asap!

Posted by: Sarah - Red Wing
on: 2015-08-05 15:08:17

Move into a new house and found this growing by the fence. Ripped it out yesterday b/c it was ugly, but now I'm glad to at least know what it is. Do my best to keep it away!

Posted by: Amanda - Winona
on: 2015-09-17 08:37:03

I have this in my backyard and have been pulling it for years. I work in the conservation field and have found this throughout Winona County in various areas.

Posted by: Debra S - Milaca
on: 2015-10-02 18:34:09

I can remember this plant all over every empty lot or woodsy places I roamed as a child in Illinois. Now I'm in MN and I see it here and there, too. I do have some in my yard, in a hedgerow. It is pretty, I leave it alone, it's among other wild things, not doing any harm. I see it along some roadsides up here too.

Posted by: Cindy - Morris
on: 2016-08-19 17:46:13

Saw this stuff in my backyard behind my shed by the wood pile. At first I didn't worry about it as was behind the shed and the flowers were pretty, then I started seeing the red berries and began to think it was annoying as it kept spreading. I started to pull it all out and glad I did once I read all of the other comments. Have never seen it before and no neighbors have ever talked about it.

Posted by: Teresa A - Glencoe
on: 2016-08-21 14:09:28

It is all mixed in with my grape vine... started pulling it out and apart... will let you know if it comes back

Posted by: Tammy - Woodbury - Washington Co.
on: 2016-09-11 17:48:51

Hello - Just found this plant in the prairie area that I am restoring. Since it is not native, I will be removing it. Thank you for your website!

Posted by: Jane - Byron
on: 2016-10-05 14:22:13

suppose I could pour vinegar on it to kill it? I have a bunch growing in a wood pile by our fence

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-10-05 17:29:30

Jane, vinegar does not kill perennials, it just damages the above ground parts that come in direct contact with it. Pull it, then smother with woodchips. That worked for us.

Posted by: deb S. - Milaca
on: 2016-10-06 15:04:32

I have this in my yard, it never seems to spread anywhere, so I leave it. It's pretty and I hope it has some food value for the birds??????

Posted by: Kimberly - Cottonwood County
on: 2017-03-23 14:30:29

Growing along the shore of Fish Lake

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