Bittersweet Nightshade

Bittersweet_Nightshade_jpgThis family (Solanaceae) commonly called the Nightshade Family of herbs, shrubs, trees, and woody vines is composed of 2000 species.  This family has many strong-scented plants and is a major source of foods, drugs, and ornamentals.  One species (Atropa belladonna, also called “deadly nightshade”) is a cultivated perennial in New Jersey.  The species contain toxic alkaloids.Of the 1000 or more species of nightshades found worldwide (most in the tropics), only about 30 kinds are found in the United States.  Bittersweet Nightshade can be found on open, usually moist ground of woods and shaded edges and in waste places. “Clambering” is defined as “climbing with both hands and feet”.  This is a perfect description of what Nightshade does, for it used neither tendrils (like grapes) nor disks (like Virginia Creeper), nor does it really twine (like Bittersweet).  More often it is found falling loosely over anything and in any way it can to support itself in the sunlight.  The result is a fairly sloppy appearance. Many species of wildlife feast on the fruit of Nightshades.  The fruit is closely related to eggplants and tomatoes.  Waterfowl, upland gamebirds, songbirds and small mammals all consume this food.


Bittersweet, Purple Nightshade, Blue Bindweed


Solanum dulcamara




Naturalized from Europe




2 to 8 feet


Early August to September


Nova Scotia to Georgia ~ Statewide in New Jersey


Mid May to September


Rhizomatous, shrubby below, climbing, or clambering, short hairy ~ Leaves broadly oval, others with pair of basal lobes ~ Flowers on stalks, light blue or violet ~ Fruit bright red, poisonous