This member of the Nightshade or Solanaceae family is a native specimen in North America. This perennial vine can be found in a wide range of habitats, including thickets, woods, and damp stream banks. Also, it covers a large geographic area that comprises parts of Texas, up to North Dakota, and Eastward into the states of New England. The plant has an attractive appearance with strikingly shaped leaves, purple flowers with yellow anthers, and berries which turn from green to bright red (Niering, p. 804; County, 2013).

Myth and Reality

Nightshade features prominently in stories and myths surrounding witches and their supposed propensity to use the plant to brew potions. These concoctions would then be utilized to poison their victims. One of the most common ingredient choices was the highly poisonous Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade (Lawless, 2010). The Bittersweet version of the vine features berries and leaves that contain a mild poison called alkaloid solanine. This toxic agent can produce death if consumed by livestock and pets. Though less likely, as the berries have an unpleasant taste, children that consume large amounts can also be poisoned and killed (Niering, p. 804; County, 2013).


County, K. (2013) Noxious Weeds: Bittersweet Nightshade

Lawless, S.A. (2010) Solanum: The Poisonous Plants of Witchcraft

Niering, W.A. (1979) The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers

(Eastern Region). Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

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