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Bitter nightshade

Family: Solanaceae

Scientific name: Solanum dulcamara L.

Common name: Bitter nightshade

Description: This woody perennial can have a straggling or climbing stem up to 6 feet in length. Leaves are alternate, petiole, some simple and entire, and others with a pair of small basal lobes or leaflets. The plant blooms from July through August. Flowers are arranged in groups of three or more. The corolla is purple and star shaped. The ovoid berries are juicy and glossy red, the seeds are yellow-orange to reddish.

Occurrence: This cosmopolitan native of Europe is widely distributed in the United States and is found on moist, disturbed sites.

Toxicity: Bitter nightshade contains an extremely toxic glycoalkaloid, solanine. Other species of “Solanum” contain solanine or closely related compounds, all of which produce similar physiologic action. Solanine is found in the leaves and is highly concentrated in the unripe berries. Children have been poisoned after eating the attractive berries. More than a dozen other species of “Solanum” also are poisonous.

Symptom: Symptoms of nightshade poisoning include salivation, headache, stomach pain, drowsiness, trembling, lowered temperature, dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, progressive weakness, prostration, and death.

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