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Solanum dulcamara

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2.5 metres tall
Fens, hedgerows, woodland.

Purple, 5 petals
5 bright purple bent back petals, anthers forming a bright yellow pointed cone, up to 1.5cm across. Sepals and stalks are also sometimes purple.
Clusters of round green berries, later turn yellow, orange or bright red.
Alternate, pointed and oval. Often with one or more pairs of basal ovate lobes, or leaflets at the base.
Other Names:
Amara Dulcis, Bitter Nightshade, Bittersweet Nightshade, Blue Bindweed, Blue Nightshade, Climbing Nightshade, Common Nightshade, Dwale, European Bittersweet, Fellen, Fellenwort, Felonwood, Fever Twig, Fool's Cap, Poisonberry, Poisonflower, Rubabarik, Scarlet Berry, Skawcoo, Snakeberry, Tether-devil, Trailing Bittersweet, Violet Bloom, Wild Potato Flower, Wolfgrape, Woody Nightshade.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Solanum dulcamara, also known as bittersweet nightshade or woody nightshade, is a perennial plant that is native to Europe and Asia. It is known for its bright purple or red berries and large, purple-veined leaves. The plant is considered invasive in some areas and is often found growing in wooded areas or along fence lines. It is a member of the Solanaceae family, which also includes tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. S. dulcamara has a long history of medicinal use and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including asthma, bronchitis, and rheumatism. However, the plant is toxic and should not be ingested. Ingesting the berries or leaves can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and confusion. The plant is also poisonous to livestock and can cause serious illness or death if ingested.


Bittersweet, also known as Solanum dulcamara, is a shrubby plant that is widely distributed throughout the world. This species is part of the Solanaceae family, which includes many well-known plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

Bittersweet is a hardy plant that grows in a variety of habitats, including forests, meadows, and wetlands. It is a climbing or creeping plant that can reach up to 8 feet in height, and its stem is covered in sharp thorns. The plant has large leaves that are dark green and slightly shiny, and its flowers are small and yellow-green in color.

One of the most distinctive features of Bittersweet is its fruit. The fruit is a berry that starts off green and turns yellow or orange when it is ripe. The berries are edible, but they are quite bitter and are not usually consumed by humans. They are, however, a food source for many wildlife species, including birds, squirrels, and deer.

Despite its bitter taste, Bittersweet has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The plant contains solanine, which is a toxic alkaloid, but it also contains other compounds that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Bittersweet has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including arthritis, rheumatism, and skin conditions.

In recent years, Bittersweet has become a popular ornamental plant. It is often used as a groundcover or a climbing vine, and it is appreciated for its bright yellow and orange berries, as well as its dense foliage. Bittersweet is a hardy plant that can grow in a range of soil types and is not particularly susceptible to pests or diseases.

However, despite its many benefits, Bittersweet can also be considered an invasive species in some areas. Its climbing habit and ability to grow quickly can make it difficult to control and limit its spread, and it can quickly take over native vegetation, reducing biodiversity. In these cases, it is important to carefully manage Bittersweet and prevent it from spreading into natural areas.

Another aspect to consider is the toxicity of Bittersweet. As previously mentioned, the plant contains solanine, a toxic alkaloid, and all parts of the plant, including the berries and leaves, can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. This makes it important to keep the plant out of reach of children and pets, especially if you have young children or pets that might be tempted to taste it.

Despite its potential to cause harm, Bittersweet can still be an attractive and useful plant in a garden setting. To minimize the risk of its invasive habit or toxicity, it is important to choose a suitable location and to plant it in a controlled area, such as a container or a trellis. This will help to ensure that the plant stays in its designated location and that its berries and leaves are not easily accessible to children or pets.

In conclusion, Bittersweet is a beautiful and versatile plant that can add interest and color to any garden or landscape. However, it is important to consider its potential as an invasive species and its toxicity before planting it in your yard. With careful management, it can be an attractive and useful addition to any garden.


Bittersweet filmed growing in a hedge on the 7th July 2022.


Music credits
Prelude No. 21 by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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