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PlantFiles: Woody Nightshade, Climbing Nightshade, Bittersweet
Solanum dulcamara

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Family: Solanaceae (so-lan-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Solanum (so-LAN-num) (Info)
Species: dulcamara (dool-kah-MAH-rah) (Info)

10 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Vines and Climbers

Height:
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Spacing:
6-9 in. (15-22 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Light Shade

Danger:
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Blue-Violet

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Foliage:
Deciduous

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From woody stem cuttings

Seed Collecting:
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 20 photos.
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Profile:

3 positives
3 neutrals
13 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Negative coriaceous On Mar 1, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The cultivation of this common weed is illegal in Connecticut. It is invasive through much of the United States. It is especially noxious as an aquatic, forming large floating mats and lining stream and pond banks.

Foliage is malodorous, especially when crushed. Many people get a skin rash on contact.

Stems root where they touch the ground. Plants left in brush piles will usually re-root and continue to grow. Cut stems tossed on the ground usually re-root.

Resistant to glyphosate herbicide. The stems are brittle and usually break off without the root if pulled. The roots are fairly shallow and generally fairly easy to dig out.

Negative plant_it On Jun 1, 2013, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Solanum dulcamara is native to Europe from central Norway, south to northern Africa, and east and central Asia. It was introduced into the U.S. and Canada and has become invasive here. It chokes out native plants and is very difficult to get rid of.

Don't confuse this plant with Oriental Bittersweet and/or American Bittersweet. Oriental Bittersweet is another non-native invasive that is taking over U.S. and Canadian woodlands, displacing native plants. American Bittersweet, on the other hand, is a lovely native vine that is not overly aggressive. Unfortunately, the Oriental Bittersweet is taking over the American variety to the point that American Bittersweet is becoming hard to find in the wild. To tell which you have, look at the position of the berries (American will be at the end of the vine in a terminal cluster, Oriental will be all along the vine). Both Oriental and American Bittersweet have bright orange roots.

Negative cimoroba On Jun 21, 2012, cimoroba from Wilmington Manor, DE wrote:

This plant is a bane of gardeners. I found it growing in the yard of a former home and pulled it out. I received a nasty rash for my trouble. It took over three weeks to get rid of the rash. I had to hire someone to remove the rest of the plant. I now find it growing in my back yard in my current home. I will have to find someone to dig this out. Between this plant and morning glory vine that the birds seem to revel in planting I sometimes think of concreting the entire yard.

Positive skwiff On Jun 19, 2012, skwiff from gillingham
United Kingdom wrote:

i have never had a problem with this plant. even though most call it a weed it can be a highly ornamental plant if trained correctly, treat it like a grape vine, train it up a trellis and cut it back to a central stem in the winter. the only down side to it is the fact that the plant smells like cat poop but overal look of the plant from a distance is nice :) a good way to stop the birds getting the berries is to get a cat, or to net the vines.

Negative kentstar On Oct 31, 2011, kentstar from Ravenna, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

It's taking over the middle of our hedges! How on earth do I erradicate this vine? I can't even get into the middle of the hedges (large evergreen hedges) to dig it out!

It must have spread as a weed within the hedges! Ugh!

Negative WaterCan2 On Jun 22, 2011, WaterCan2 from Eastern Long Island, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Extremely invasive and difficult to eradicate, birds seem immune to it's toxicity and spread the seed as well. Grows aggressively and is undeterred by my sandy soil here on the Island, prefers shade. Literally suffocates and cuts light from otherwise healthy trees.

Negative l6blue On Jun 7, 2010, l6blue from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

I think the foliage on this plant is not pretty. I have this coming up in one of my garden beds, and I'm constantly pulling it out.

Neutral grrrlgeek On May 31, 2009, grrrlgeek from Grayslake, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

Anyone growing this plant needs to cut off the fruit before the birds eat it, as daistuff does, or they will spread it.

Just to set the record straight, the Bittersweet vine mentioned below as being invasive and choking plants, as well as banned in New Hampshire, is the Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, introduced in the 1800's. It is NOT American Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens, a native plant that is fine to grow, and is even listed as "exploitably vulnerable" in NY.

Neutral daistuff On Aug 19, 2008, daistuff from Cary, IL (Zone 5a) wrote:

I guess I got lucky that this came up right next to our deck, in the shade in front of a trellis that I was looking to cover. It doesn't seem to spread too quickly, but I do cut off and discard all the berries, and I aggressively trim all the long pieces that hang off the trellis. Wind the rest around and it looks very pretty! I was just starting to wonder if there was any vine that would grow in the shade under the deck, when this popped up. Grows in shade and sun. I guess I wouldn't plant it intentionally, but I've taken an "if you can't beat em join em" approach to it, and we are living in harmony (so far).

Positive NHVineLover On Aug 10, 2008, NHVineLover from Manchester, NH wrote:

If you know what you're doing and are diligent in your gardening habits, this plant can be an absolute joy and wonderful to look at. Planted in a dry area, it is much easier to control instead of it controlling you.
Poisonous to pets and young children, pets actually avoid it, and children should be watched around it as they put everything into their mouths, but they would not appreciate the taste, so it's doubtful they would injest enough to actually make them ill.
In my garden, they are planted along a short expance of wire fencing installed specially to support the vines as a backdrop for a bed of various lillies and hostas. They do not have strangling vines as do the native true bittersweet vine, which is in a totally different family. That being the case, it's easy to control by cutting back where it's not appreciated or pulling up young plants that self-seed where not wanted.
What I like most about the Solanum Dulcamara, other than it's small tomatoe-like fruit and deep purple, yellow stamened flowers blooming at the same time to create a colourful display is the fact that it attracts innumerable bumble bees and is virtually pest-free. Finches use it for cover, and birds do eat the ripe fruit.
Grown as I have it, in full sun in sandy, well-watered soil, the thick mass of greenery provides a much-needed habitat for the shade-loving hostas and sedums that grow beneath.
One person reported skin eruptions from touching the leaves, etc., but that sounds more like she was pulling out poison ivy rather than woody nightshade. Another mentions it strangling other plants. Again, that sounds more like the common bittersweet that has been banned from being sold by nurseries here in N.H. because if its intrusive, distructive nature rather than the woody nightshade.
Simply, I love it.

Negative picante On Jun 26, 2007, picante from Helena, MT (Zone 4b) wrote:

What an ugly mess of tangled, dead stems woven through our chain-link fence! We inherited this rambunctious plant, and I took an immediate dislike, since it was out of control. We dug it up last spring, and this spring we are still pulling thousands of seedlings, as it self-seeds all over creation.

Negative heathrjoy On Jun 16, 2007, heathrjoy from Weedville, PA (Zone 6a) wrote:

This certainly is a nasty and invasive weed. I've had it pop up in our unused gravel parking place, year after year. It will choke out nearly any other plantings as the others here have said. I try to stay mostly organic in my garden, but I did have to resort to chemicals for this monster. RoundUp didn't do the job for me. I used a product by Ortho that was labeled to kill Poison Ivy and Blackberries. It is a slow-kill process, but it kills everything it touches (nasty, nasty stuff).

Please don't think you can control this stuff, it's on a mission to take over the world! If you do decide to keep it please at least keep it from going to seed so that your neighbors don't have to deal with it.

Negative ScottishThistle On Jun 6, 2007, ScottishThistle from Charlottetown
Canada wrote:

I once thought this plant was tolerable because of it's pretty deep purple flowers and red berries. I moved in to a new home in spring with a lovely natural pond and stream and was discovering this plant along the banks and some in the woods. Each plant got bigger throughout the summer and was entangling all sorts of natural plants with huge clumps of en snarling, thick vines.

They grow well from very dry soil to hydro phonically. They spread even faster in the water and were gumming up the stream and pond as any part of the vine would propagate roots if it touched watery soil.

I've tried for a year now to pull them out. They are poisonous (and smelly not in a good way) and I gotten a rash once when for a couple of hours I was trying to remove them with water soaked gloves.

If you want to pull them out find the anchor root (where the vine stems are leading to in the ground) and pull it up and let it dry. The whole plant attached to this will wilt. This saves a lot of time as there usually a lot of the vine attached to one root clump.

If you live in North America or other areas where it is not native don't plant it, it is very aggressive and particularly dangerous to our wetlands.

Neutral renwings On Apr 3, 2007, renwings from Sultan, WA (Zone 8a) wrote:

This plant is a notable homeopathic remedy that is not commonly used, due to the skill required in dosing.
I found it growing under a hemlock tree in my yard this year.

The alkaloid Solanine asks as a narcotic and in large doses paralyzes the central nervous system without affecting peripheral nerves and muscles. An overdose will surely kill you.

Negative Itchyfromvine On Jul 29, 2006, Itchyfromvine from Beckley, WV wrote:

This is not a plant anyone should desire. It is a weed! It is invasive, destructive, indestructible, and chokes out any desired plants. A single brush against my skin caused a rash that flared up within an hour and lasted for weeks(and I was wearing gloves!). I pull it whenever I see it, and can never seem to fully eradicated it.

Negative hildaham On Jul 4, 2006, hildaham from Helena, MT (Zone 4a) wrote:

This plant was all over our landscape when we bought our house a year and a half ago. We didn't know what it was and our toddler picked the berries - luckily we got them out of his mouth before he swallowed any! DO NOT PLANT THIS if you have young children or children that visit. I am still finding it in our yard even though I pull up every plant I see.

Positive JerusalemCherry On Nov 1, 2005, JerusalemCherry from Dunellen, NJ (Zone 6b) wrote:

Gardeners in North America either love bittersweet vines or hate them. Bittersweet plants can kill trees and are difficult to eradicate from your landscape. But during the fall season bittersweet vines put on a display few other plants can rival. To grow bittersweet vines or not to grow bittersweet vines: truly a bittersweet decision for landscapers.

This plant has many names, here are a few...Bittersweet, Bittersweet Herb, Bittersweet Stems, Bittersweet Twigs, Blue Nightshade, Felonwort, Fever Twig, Garden Nightshade, Nightshade, Nightshade Vine, Scarlet Berry, Staff Vine, Violet Bloom, Woody, Woody Nightshade, and Climbing Nightshade.

The standared form of this plant is very pretty. This plant is an unusually vigorous easy striking vine packed with puckered leaves widely margined with deep green and blue-violet potato like flower clusters become berries ripening to yellow,orange.green, red, then darker. Handsome deciduous vine scarce in commerce due to its weedy nature. This plant is hardy to Zone 4, & it can also be grown as a houseplant.

A plant introduced into the U.S. from Europe, called "bittersweet nightshade" (Solanum dulcamara). The berries of this plant undergo an interesting color transformation during their growing season. Beginning as a green berry, they change first to yellow, then to orange, and finally to red. Making the plant even more colorful is the fact that not all the berries reach these color stages at the same time. Consequently, it is not uncommon to see a bittersweet nightshade plant bearing berries of three different colors. The berry of this true bittersweet is poisonous. Not that I'd recommend that the novice ingest false bittersweet berries.

Negative raccoonwoman On Jul 17, 2005, raccoonwoman from Silver Creek, MN wrote:

The flowers are pretty, and the berries look nice too, but it's much too invasive. I hate the way it will wrap itself all over a
tree(or anything else it can manage to climb on), and wind it's tendrils over everything - makes tearing it
out quite a chore.

Negative Equilibrium On Dec 4, 2004, Equilibrium wrote:

Eurasian in origin. In the midwestern Region of the US, this plant has become extremely invasive. Appears these same characteristics are associated with this plant south of us here too. It has naturalized. Listed as noxious in a few states. All parts of this plant are poisonous to people, horses, pigs, horses, and pets which is why the plant is sometimes called Deadly Nightshade. The toxin this plant contains is called solanine.

If you want to remove it, dig it out and pick up all pieces of the plant as it has been my experience that any piece of the plant left on the ground is capable of resprouting. Special. I had a few areas of this where I actually broke down and used Round Up on it. Wear gloves when working with this plant or you might end up with a nasty rash.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)
Quitzdorf Am See,
Arvada, Colorado
New Castle, Delaware
Coeur D Alene, Idaho
Aurora, Illinois
Cary, Illinois
Grayslake, Illinois
Niles, Illinois
Westchester, Illinois
Wilmette, Illinois
Plymouth, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Des Moines, Iowa
Barbourville, Kentucky
Dayton, Kentucky
Cumberland, Maryland
Ellicott City, Maryland
Riverdale, Maryland
Gloucester, Massachusetts
Bay City, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Clear Lake, Minnesota
Isle, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Silver Creek, Minnesota
Helena, Montana (2 reports)
Manchester, New Hampshire
Collingswood, New Jersey
Dunellen, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York
Canastota, New York
Deposit, New York
Yorktown Heights, New York
Cincinnati, Ohio
Oak Hill, Ohio
Ravenna, Ohio
Cheshire, Oregon
Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania
Newport, Rhode Island (2 reports)
Alexandria, Virginia
Lakewood, Washington
North Sultan, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Spokane, Washington
Beckley, West Virginia
Elkins, West Virginia
Hartford, Wisconsin



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