Bittersweet…

Or Woody Nightshade. I am talking about Solanum dulcamara.

I didn’t find it here on the farm  until September last year and by that time all that I had to photograph was the fruit.

Woody NightshadeI have been watching and waiting since then and today the first flowers opened.

Bittersweet flower bud

Bittersweet flower

Bittersweet FlowerIt is a typical Nightshade flower with the petals turned sharply back and the stamens are actually held in place like that with a glue that the plant produces. If it doesn’t produce the glue they go all over the place.

This next picture is a Black Nightshade flower, Solanum nigrum (It is called Black Nightshade because the berries are “Black” not the flower 🙂 ).

Black Nightshade flower

Back to Woody Nightshade.

Each petal has a small white spot with a green centre at the very base of it’s inside surface. These spots are exposed when the petals turn back.

Bittersweet flower

Bittersweet Flower

Bittersweet Flower

Bittersweet FlowerThe leaf shape is often described as variable and confusing. It is not that bad really, they look more or less like this….

Bittersweet LeafAs you get toward the tip of the vine they start to develop either one or two little lobes at the base.

Bittersweet leaf

Bittersweet leaf

Bittersweet leafAs you might expect from a Nightshade the berries are poisonous (Not all Nightshades are poisonous, Black Nightshade is grown as a food crop in many parts of the world and I have just been reading that it is grown as a food crop in North America. Suit yourselves 🙂 )

Woody Nightshade is poisonous.

Bittersweet BerriesIt is not excessively poisonous but there are records of children dying after eating the berries, so how poisonous does it have to be?

But what I am getting at is that unless you have some severe reaction, one berry won’t kill you, if you want to know what they taste like. I have read, from people who did want to know, that they are bitterly disgusting and I am prepared to accept that.

That is the reason that people don’t normally die from eating them. You have to eat a lot, thirty, forty or more, so you would have  to hate yourself to keep on munching after the first one.

Bittersweet fruit

Bittersweet fruit

Bittersweet fruitSo that is it for Solanum dulcamara for today. I am sure that I will watch the fruits develop through the summer and write about it again later in the year.

There are some other fruits that I only discovered after the flowers were spent. Black Bryony is almost ready, I am just waiting for the female flowers, the males are already open. Also the Guelder Rose, that is not going so well, I have lost it but expect to find it again when it flowers 🙂

21 thoughts on “Bittersweet…”

  1. Excellent images, Colin.
    I think this series has to be the very best (showing the fine details) you’ve ever made.
    I vaguely remember Solarnum Nigrum as being in the plant identification course I did some 20 odd years ago. Wish I could remember the course now that I’m living near a river and wild plants.
    It was all so easy living next to the Royal Botanic Gardens as they mostly had plant identification tags next to the plants near my old home.

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  2. I had never noticed the white spot with a green centre before. I will have to have a look when I see some Bittersweet. We haven’t any flowers yet but I’ve seen the leaves so it won’t be too long.

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    1. Thank you Clare 🙂 The spots are not easy to see as the flowers tend to hang down. You have got to get underneath them and look up, or just mess about with them a bit as I do 🙂

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  3. Such beautiful pictures you took of them. The flowers are really pretty. We have that type of nightshade all around here and it always occurs to me that the berries look so good, that small children might eat some. I didn’t know they are bitter and that’s good to know, so kids wouldn’t eat many. I’ll take your word for it on the taste, cos I’m not going to chance even one. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Nancy 🙂 There are quite a lot of reported poisonings, almost always involving children and very few that do any lasting damage, I could only find two accounts of fatalities and one of them was in 1856. In 1994 a four year old girl was admitted to hospital and found to have consumed around fifty berries, she was discharged in good health thirty six hours later. I can only assume that these kids are not chewing their food properly so they miss the bad taste. It is important to chew. Nature has gone to so much trouble to make it obvious to us that this isn’t good to eat.

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  4. I’ve always loved the purple flowers of nightshade. We were warned off them as children. I was (still am) attracted to any shiny red fruit like cherries. I wonder if the red ripened woody nightshade fruit is edible? We eat Solanum all the time as tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes, so I wonder… but never curious enough to have tried it!

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    1. Thank you Eliza 🙂 No the red ripe berries of Woody Nightshade are definitely not edible. The other Solanums that you mention are also poisonous. They all contain the same glycoalkaloids, a natural defence to stop them from being eaten. The potato is a very poisonous plant, watch out for the green bits.

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      1. I know the green is poisonous, but I thought tomatoes are good because they have anti-oxidant lycopene, which fights cancer. And eggplants are touted as a super food.

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  5. Hmmm. I may have one of these in the garden. Time to look more closely. I am still in shock at the moment as I saw a cat in the garden today the first in 2 months. Woe is me.

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    1. Thank you Andrew 🙂 Well I would say, “Get a Dog,” sorry Lulu. If it is any consolation Fizz isn’t very good at protection either. She barks at most animals that are big enough to see but the little ones like Rats and Squirrels just seem to slip under her radar 🙂

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    1. Thank you John 🙂 I have a special fondness for the flowers associated with childhood but can think of no children’s games involving Nightshade. There is probably a good reason for that. Your comment reminds me of the first birds that I learned to recognise and one of those was the Song Thrush, just because it was very distinctive and easy to recognise like the Robin and Blackbird. It was also a bird that we saw every single day 😦

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