How to Identify Poisonous Bittersweet Nightshade Plants

Written by ehow home & garden editor
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Bittersweet nightshade is a plant whose nature is as rich and complex as its name. While poisonous, the Solanum dulcamara has been used for centuries as a diuretic and herbal remedy for various aches and pains. It's important to be able to identify the bittersweet nightshade plant, whether you're trying to find it or avoid it.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look at the leaves of the plant to see if they are grow from a vine (unless the plant is very young) and are a dark green to purplish hue and are between one and four inches in length. The leaves of the bittersweet nightshade are petiolated (they each have their own short stem) and alternate so that you rarely see one leaf directly covering another.

  2. 2

    Look at the colors of the plant to find the purple flowers and the red berries that bittersweet nightshade produces. If you do see the clusters of berries, look out for bright a dark green color for just-bloomed berries and red to orange colors for more mature berries. The purple flowers of Solanum dulcamara are star shaped with an orange-yellow center.

  3. 3

    Smell the plant since bittersweet nightshade almost always has an unpleasant, noxious odor. If you can't smell anything at first, tear one of the leaves to release some of the odor, but be sure to keep the plant away from your face and wash the poisonous juices off your hand once you're finished.

  4. 4

    Watch the plant over time to see identify the change characteristics of Solanum dulcamara since the stems become a little woody and creeping as they grow older. Also watch the change of the berries which slide from a dark green to yellow, an early orange and then a ripe red as the bittersweet nightshade progresses through the season.

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