Friday, January 16, 2009

Bittersweet Nighshade/ Bittersød natskygge
Solanum dulcamara

Bittersweet Nightshade with green and red berries.

Bittersweet nightshade is native to Europe and Asia and widely naturalized elsewhere. The purple flowers in loose clusters are star-shaped with five petals and yellow stamens. The fruit is an ovoid red berry, (unripe it is green), soft and juicy and poisonous to humans and livestock but edible for birds. As with most Solanum species the foliage is also poisonous to humans. It has caused loss of livestock and pet poisoning and has caused death in children who accidentally picked the berries, probably because it was growing with black berries. Most animals will avoid it because it has a strong unpleasant odor.

Solanum was derived from the same Latin word as solace and was likely given as a name for this weed becuase of its many medicinal uses. Dulcamara is a combination of Latin words meaning sweet-bitter. The common name refers to a toxin in bittersweet nightshade that is said to leave a bitter and then sweet taste if ingested.

Bitter nightshade was used to treat asthma, bronchitis, jaundice, kidney problems, rheumatism, skin diseases, syphilis and to counteract witchcraft. Today it is used in naturopathy and herbalism and is considered by some to be a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies.

Other common names for Solanum dulcamara include trailing nightshade, bittersweet, climbing nightshade, blue bindweed, fellenwort, dogwood, poisonflower, snakeberry etc.

photo 2008: grethe bachmann, Krap Vejle, North Jutland

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