Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara is a species of vine in the genus Solanum (which also includes the potato and the tomato) of the family Solanaceae. Common names include bittersweet, bittersweet nightshade, bitter nightshade, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis,[3] climbing nightshade,[4] fellenwort, felonwood, poisonberry, poisonflower, scarlet berry, snakeberry,[5][6][7] trailing bittersweet, trailing nightshade, violet bloom, and woody nightshade.

Bittersweet nightshade
Illustration Solanum dulcamara0.jpg
Solanum dulcamara[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
S. dulcamara
Binomial name
Solanum dulcamara

It is native to Europe and Asia, and widely naturalised elsewhere, including North America.


It occurs in a very wide range of habitats, from woodlands to scrubland, hedges and marshes.

Bittersweet is a very woody herbaceous perennial vine, which scrambles over other plants, capable of reaching a height of 4 m where suitable support is available, but more often 1–2 m high. The leaves are 4–12 cm long, roughly arrowhead-shaped, and often lobed at the base. The flowers are in loose clusters of 3–20, 1–1.5 cm across, star-shaped, with five purple petals and yellow stamens and style pointing forward. The fruit is an ovoid red berry about 1 cm long,[8] soft and juicy, with the aspect and odour of a tiny tomato, and edible for some birds, which disperse the seeds widely.[citation needed] However, the berry is poisonous to humans and livestock,[9][10] and the berry's attractive and familiar look make it dangerous for children.

Distribution of S. dulcamara

It is native to northern Africa, Europe, and Asia, but has spread throughout the world. The plant is relatively important in the diet of some species of birds such as European thrushes,[11] which feed on its fruits, being immune to its poisons, and scatter the seeds abroad. It grows in all types of terrain with a preference for wetlands[citation needed] and the understory of riparian forests. Along with other climbers, it creates a dark and impenetrable shelter for varied animals. The plant grows well in dark areas in places where it can receive the light of morning or afternoon. An area receiving bright light for many hours reduces their development.[citation needed] It grows more easily in rich wet soils with plenty of nitrogen.

It is a nonnative species in the United States.[12]


Solanum dulcamara has been valued by herbalists since ancient Greek times. In the Middle Ages the plant was thought to be effective against witchcraft, and was sometimes hung around the neck of cattle to protect them from the "evil eye".[13][14][15]

John Gerard's Herball (1597) states that "the juice is good for those that have fallen from high places, and have been thereby bruised or beaten, for it is thought to dissolve blood congealed or cluttered anywhere in the intrals and to heale the hurt places."[15]

Biological activityEdit

The stems are approved by the German Commission E for external use as supportive therapy in chronic eczema.[16]

The alkaloids, solanine (from unripe fruits), solasodine (from flowers) and beta-solamarine (from roots) inhibited the growth of E. coli and S. aureus.[17] Solanine and solasodine extracted from Solanum dulcamara showed antidermatophytic activity against Chrysosporium indicum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and T. simil, thus it may cure ringworm.[18]

Although fatal human poisonings are rare, several cases have been documented. The poison is believed to be solanine.[19]



  1. ^ illustration by Kurt Stüber, published in Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany
  2. ^ Sp. Pl. 1: 185. 1753 [1 May 1753] "Plant Name Details for Solanum dulcamura". IPNI. Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Culpeper Plant Names Database, discussing various editions of Culpeper, for example Culpeper, Nicholas, The English physitian: or an astrologo-physical discourse of the vulgar herbs of this nation, London, Peter Cole, 1652.
  4. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Solanum dulcamara". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  5. ^ Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  6. ^ "Almost any unfamiliar berry is or may be snake-berry, and all snake-berries are poisonous; so a boy dares not eat a berry till some one . . . ". Needs verification but may come from Fannie D. Bergen (November 1892). "Popular American Plant Names". Botanical Gazette. 17 (11): 363–380. doi:10.1086/326860. S2CID 224830265.
  7. ^ "Guide to Poisonous and Toxic Plants (Technical Guide #196)". US Army center for health promotion and preventive medicine, Entomological Sciences Program. July 1994. Archived from the original on May 4, 2008.
  8. ^ Parnell, J. and Curtis, T. 2012. Webb's An Irish Flora. Cork University Press.ISBN 978-185918-4783
  9. ^ Victor King Chesnut (1898). Thirty Poisonous Plants of the United States. U.S. Department of Agriculture. pp. 31–32. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  10. ^ Umberto Quattrocchi (2016). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology (5 Volume Set). CRC Press. p. 3481. ISBN 978-1-4822-5064-0. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  11. ^ Jones, Theresa. "Climbing nightshade". Outdoor Learning Lab. Greenfield Community College. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Solanum dulcamara". Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  13. ^ Drage, William (1665). Daimonomageia. A small treatise of sicknesses and diseases from witchcraft and supernatural causes, etc. p. 39.
  14. ^ Culpeper, Nicholas (October 2006). Culpeper's Complete Herbal & English Physician. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9781557090805.
  15. ^ a b Grieve, Maud (1971). A Modern Herbal: The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs, & Trees with All Their Modern Scientific Uses, Volume 1.
  16. ^ "Bittersweet Nightshade professional information from". Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  17. ^ L. Kumar P., Sharma B., Bakshi N.,"Biological activity of alkaloids from Solanum dulcamara". Natural Product Research. 23 (8) (pp 719-723), 2009. Date of Publication: 2009.
  18. ^ Bakshi N., Kumar P., Sharma M. "Antidermatophytic activity of some alkaloids from Solanum dulcamara." Indian Drugs. 45 (6) (pp 483-484), 2008.
  19. ^ R. F. Alexander; G. B. Forbes & E. S. Hawkins (1948-09-11). "A Fatal Case of Solanine Poisoning". Br Med J. 2 (4575): 518. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4575.518. PMC 2091497. PMID 18881287.