Solanum dulcamara L.
Other names: European bittersweet
General: rhizomatous perennial, becoming shrubby below,
tending to climb or scramble on other vegetation to a height
of 1-3 m. Herbage moderately short-hairy to hairless.
Leaves: alternate, stalked, some simple and with rather
broadly ovate to almost heart-shaped blade 2.5-8 cm long
by 1.5-5 cm wide, others with a pair of smaller, often
unequal basal lobes or leaflets, the end leaflet then
frequently not at all heart-shaped.
Flowers: about 5-25 in broad clusters 3-8 cm wide, the
branches jointed, bractless, often repeatedly 2-forkedly
branched, flowering from the center, the main cluster stalks
1.5-4 cm long. Corollas blue or light violet, the 5 lobes 5-9
mm long, soon bent backward. Anthers 5, conspicuous,
yellow, often fused together into a central column.
Flowering time: May-September.
Fruits: berries, bright red, ellipsoid to rounded, 8-11 mm
long, in hanging clusters.
Thickets, clearings, and open woods, partly shaded ground,
along streams, often in moist soil at lower elevations, in w., c.
and some n.e. parts of MT. Native of Eurasia, now widely
introduced in the U.S. and s. Canada.
Medicinal and Poisonous plant.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
Climbing nightshade, especially in its green immature fruits, contains steroidal alkaloids, which have
caused poisoning in cattle and sheep. Humans may have been poisoned after ingesting immature berries.
Recent experiments show that the mature red berries contain only a small amount of toxin and have little
chance of harming children. The immature green berries of climbing nightshade have been shown to be toxic
to hamsters and mice. Mature red berries did not cause symptoms in mice. The leaves are mildly poisonous
Bittersweet is used in naturopathy and herbalism. Its main usage is for conditions that have an impact
on the skin, mucous membrane and the membrane (synovial membrane) around the joints. Bittersweet is considered
by some to be a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies. It should be used with caution and only
under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. This is a poisonous plant that, in excess, paralyzes
the central nervous system, slows the heart and respiration, and lowers temperature, causing vertigo,
delirium, convulsions and death.
All parts of the plant are alterative, mildly urination-inducing, mildly narcotic and purgative, pain-relieving
, blood purifying, and has agents that induce vomiting, that induce the removal (coughing up) of mucous
secretions from the lungs, that promote the well-being of the liver and increase the secretion of bile.
The plant has been used for obstructed menstruation.
It is said to be of great benefit in treating leprosy, tetter, and many skin diseases. It excites the
venereal functions. It has also been used in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, bronchial congestion,
heart ailments, ulcerative colitis and jaundice. Externally, the plant is used to treat skin eruptions,
ulcers, rheumatism and cellulite. The fruits are marinated in vinegar and applied to cancerous sores and
other swellings. A decoction of the root is used in the treatment of cancer and swellings. The root is
harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.
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