Black Nightshade

Black_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 specie (Atropa belladonna, also called “deadly nightshade”) is a cultivated perennial in New Jersey.  The species contain toxic alkaloids. The Latin, scientific name Solanum nigrum means “quietening black”. Black Nightshade was once cultivated for its berries even though the berries had a reputation for being poisonous.  The green berry contains  poisonous alkaloids. The 1998 edition of the Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines reports that according to folk medicine, Black Nightshade was used as an antispasmodic, pain reliever, sedative and narcotic.  Today, it is indicated for gastric irritations and cramps.  Externally, it can be used for psoriasis, hemorrhoids and abscesses.  The brusied, fresh leaves can treat external inflammations, burns, and ulcers. An overdose resulting from intake of a large quantity of fresh foliage with high alkaloid content could lead to severe gastrointestinal irritation, headache or mydriasis (dilation of pupil of the eye).


Deadly Nightshade, Garden Nightshade, Wonderberry, Petty-Morell, Poisonberry


Solanum nigrum




Naturalized from Europe




6 inches to 4 feet


July to October


Nova Scotia to Florida ~ Statewide in NJ


Late June to Mid-October


Small white flowers with 5 petals in 6 to 10 blossomed umbel-like, nodding group ~ Fruit is pea-sized black, occasionally green or yellow berry ~ Stem erect, leafy, outward inclined branches ~ Leaves fleshy, rhomboid or oval ~ Plant has a musk-like odor when wilted