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Solanum americanum is often confused with:
Solanum nigrum Solanum nigrum
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Solanum carolinense Solanum carolinense
Solanum nigrum Solanum nigrum
Atropa bella-donna Flower

Common Nightshade Solanum americanum

Other plants called Common Nightshade:

Previously known as:

  • Solanum americanum var. nodiflorum
  • Solanum americanum var. patulum
  • Solanum nigrum var. americanum
  • Solanum nodiflorum
  • Solanum ptychanthum
Phonetic Spelling
so-LAN-num a-mer-ih-KAY-num
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

American black nightshade is an annual or short-lived perennial. Its growth habit is erect as an herbaceous plant or small shrub. The plant may reach a height of 4 feet tall. Star-shaped white flowers with a yellow cone-shaped center are present in the summer and fall. The green fruits mature into shiny black berries. The leaves and berries are toxic to livestock and humans. It is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family that also includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

American black nightshade is native to North and South America. This species is the most widespread throughout the world of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. They usually appear as a weed in the forest, thickets, grasslands, mountain slopes, wastelands, and cultivated gardens or crop fields. It is found in tropical and sub-tropical areas also.

The genus name, Solanum, is the Latin word, solamen, which means "comforting or soothing." The species name, americanum, is Latin for "from America." Some botanists consider this to be more than one species while others think it is a subspecies. Reportedly, another scientific synonym of American nightshade is Solanum ptycanthum.

The plant prefers full sun and can tolerate partial shade. It will thrive in moist soils. It can easily escape cultivation and become a weed. It is pollinated by insects, bumblebees, and flies. It is easily propagated by the dispersal of seeds. 

American black nightshade has a fibrous root system and slender taproot. The stems are green and erect. The undersides of the green leaves are slightly hairy. The white star-shaped flowers and berries appear in clusters. 

Unfortunately, this species competes with vegetable crops and reduces the harvest. Its toxicity to livestock is a concern in pastures or hayfields. Manual control by hand weeding is the only option when vegetable crops are present.  Using cover crops helps reduce seed germination and weed growth. 

American black nightshade contains a toxin known as solanine. All parts of the plant are potentially toxic to humans and all animals including pets if ingested. The leaves and berries are reportedly the most toxic. Ingestion of this plant can cause gastrointestinal problems, weakness, hallucinations, convulsions, and possible death.

Seasons of interest:

Bloom:  Summer and Fall    Fruits:   Summer and Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • stem green, erect, angular, and smooth or slightly hairy
  • green to dark green ovate or lanceolate leaves, slightly hairy undersides
  • flowers are clusters of umbel-like, star-shaped, five-petaled blooms with a yellow columnar center
  • green fruits with white flecks that ripen to shiny black or blackish-purple berries

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  American nightshade is the host of many plant pests such as the Colorado potato beetle.  American black nightshade competes with vegetable crops and becomes weedy. It is reported as invasive in Hawaii's Haleakala National Park.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#perennials#white flowers#weedy#native perennials#NC native#spreading#poisonous fruits#black fruits#native annual#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#poisonous to livestock#problem for cattle#poisonous if ingested#annual#erect
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#perennials#white flowers#weedy#native perennials#NC native#spreading#poisonous fruits#black fruits#native annual#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#poisonous to livestock#problem for cattle#poisonous if ingested#annual#erect
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    americanum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    American nightshade is used as a medicine in some parts of the world. The leaves are used to make poultices to treat skin inflammations or conjunctivitis.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North and South America
    Distribution:
    Native: Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador El Salvador, Guatemala Haiti Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, Turks-Caicos, Uruguay, Venezuela, Windward Island, and the United States except for the State of Hawaii; Introduced: Belgium, Botswana, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, China, Congo, East European Russia, Hawaii, India, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Laos, Mozambique, New South Wales, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Queensland, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, Western Australia, Zaire, and Zimbabwe
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract insects, bumblebees, and flies. The black berries are eaten by some birds including wild turkeys, catbirds, meadowlarks, and pheasants.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The plant is toxic, particularly the leaves and berries.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 6 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 6 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Weed
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are initially clusters of green berries with white flecks. They become shiny black or purplish-black berries when ripened. Each berry is round and less than 0.25 inches in diameter. Each berry contains 50- 100 tiny light tan-colored seeds. The berries are toxic to livestock.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers occur umbellate cymes or clusters. Each umbel has 3 to 10 flowers. Each bloom is star-shaped, white, five-petaled which curves backward, and has bright yellow stamens in the center of the flower.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are up to 1.5 to 3 inches long, up to 2 inches wide, green to dark green, simple, alternate, ovate or lanceolate, smooth with wavy or slightly toothed margins. The undersides of the leaves are slightly hairy. The leaves are toxic to livestock.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Angular
    Stem Description:
    The stem is erect, angular, and many-branched. The stem surface may be smooth or slightly hairy, but it is not prickly.
  • Landscape:
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, salivation, drowsiness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, respiratory depression; convulsions, hallucinations; may be fatal.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Solanine alkaloid
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Sap/Juice