Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara is a common European weed called woody nightshade, bittersweet or douce amère. It grows in hedgerows, gardens and wasteland throughout Europe and spreads via underground stems.

It has been used in folk medicine across Europe for hundreds of years. But Michel Felix Dunal, who worked on Solanum in the 1800s, realised that many of the powers attributed to this plant were spurious.

Woody nightshade was used to treat skin conditions, circulatory conditions and breathing problems like asthma. It was included in the official British Pharamcopeia until 1907, but was taken out of later editions.

It carries the bacterium - Ralstonia solanacearum – that causes brown rot in potatoes. The disease can be spread to potatoes from infected woody nightshade growing on riverbanks if the river water is used to irrigate potato fields.

Species detail

  • solanum dulcamara leaves
    Taxonomy

    Solanum dulcamara leaves vary in size and shape. So, what should you look out for?

  • Red and yellow fruits of Solanum dulcamara
    Distribution and habitat

    Solanum dulcamara is found on most continents and favours open spaces. It likes disturbed soil and can establish itself from just a piece of stem thrown on the ground. Find out more.

  • Solanum dulcamara
    Biology

    Bees help pollenate Solanum dulcamara flowers. Find out how.

  • A Solanum dulcamara flower.
    Behaviour

    Solanum dulcamara harbours the bacterium that causes brown rot in potatoes. The bacterium fails to harm the woody nightshade but can devastate potato crops.

  • Solanum dulcamara
    Conservation

    Find out about the conservation status of this weed.

  • Solanum dulcamara
    References

    Get reference material for Solanum dulcamara

Images

Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara is found in open areas such as sea shores.

© S Knapp
Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara fruits, bright red when ripe.

© S Knapp
Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara being pollinated by a bumblebee.

© S Knapp
Solanum dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara common European weed called woody nightshade, bittersweet or douce amère.

© S Knapp
Leaves of Solanum dulcamara

Leaves of Solanum dulcamara.

A flower of Solanum dulcamara

A flower of Solanum dulcamara.

About the author

Sandy Knapp
Dr Sandra Knapp

Merit researcher in botany

A word from the author

'Solanum dulcamara is one of a group of about 50 species for which I am doing an in-depth taxonomic treatment. It is one of only four in this group that occur in the northern hemisphere and is really interesting because of its huge geographic range and its incredible variability.'

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