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Poisonberry Solanum nigrum

Previously known as:

  • Solanum atriplicifolium
Phonetic Spelling
so-LAN-num NYE-grum
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

The European Black Nightshade is an annual or short-lived perennial herb that is an erect and dense shrub. It is grown for its flowers and ornamental fruits. The plant has green leaves and tiny star-shaped white blooms that grow in short-stalked clusters in the summer. Berry-like fruits appear in the summer and fall. It is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

The plant is a native of parts of Europe, Asia, Macaronesia, and the North and Northeast portions of Africa. The European Black Nightshade has been introduced to the United States. Canada, and Australia. It is found in coastal areas, wetlands, pastures, woodlands, fields, along roadsides, or other disturbed sites. European Black Nightshade is a common weed in horticulture, and its seeds are easily spread by birds to pastures and wastelands. The plant may compete with crops and can become a serious problem. It has been classified as a weed in 61 countries.

The genus name, Solanum, is from the Latin word solamen, which means "comforting or soothing." The species name, nigrum, means "black" and refers to the black fruits.

European Black Nightshade prefers full sun and is intolerant to shade. It grows best in sand, loam, or clay with a slightly acidic pH. The plant is easy to maintain and is drought tolerant once established. The minimal temperature it will tolerate is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant is propagated by seeds, and the flowers are pollinated by insects.

The stems are hairy, stout, and green or tinged with purple. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface, and the undersides are lighter green with a purplish tinge. They are ovate, entire, and may have short stout hairs on the upper and lower surface. The flower stalk supports three to twelve flowers in umbel-like cymes. The fruits are small green berries that ripen to black or purplish black. 

The leaves and the immature green berries of this plant are poisonous to humans and animals. They contain an alkaloid known as Solanine. Symptoms of poisoning include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and possible death. Once the berries mature and turn black, the fruits are edible, in limited quantities. 

This plant should not be confused with a more toxic plant known as Deadly Nightshade. European Black Nightshade berries appear in clusters and the Deadly Nightshade berries are individual. 

When considering this plant, be mindful of its risk to pets and children as well as its tendency to become weedy.

Seasons of interest:

Bloom:  Summer     Fruits:   Summer, Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • erect, stout, green stems that may be tinged with purple
  • dark green leaves, hairy or smooth, entire, wavy to dentate margins
  • the flower stalks support 3 to 23 tiny white flowers with yellow anthers in umbel-like cymes
  • clusters of green to black or purplish-black soft berries

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  The plant may be susceptible to red spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, aphids, and flea beetles. Caterpillars and slugs can destroy the plant.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#white flowers#shrub#weedy#low maintenance#poisonous fruits#pollinator plant#black fruits#bird friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#shade intolerant#dense growth#poisonous if ingested#herb#annual#erect#coastal
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#perennials#white flowers#shrub#weedy#low maintenance#poisonous fruits#pollinator plant#black fruits#bird friendly#problem for cats#problem for dogs#problem for children#problem for horses#shade intolerant#dense growth#poisonous if ingested#herb#annual#erect#coastal
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    nigrum
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The leaves, roots, and berries have been used to make medicine. In ancient India, the berries were used to treat tuberculosis and jaundice.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Temp. Eurasia, Macaronesia, North and Northeast Tropical Africa
    Distribution:
    Native: Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Chad, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungry, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam, Yemen, and Yugoslavia; Introduced: US--AL, AK, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, IO, ME, MD, MA, MO, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OK, OR, PA, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, and WI. Canada--Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Territory, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Portions of Australia, New Zealand, Borneo, and the Philippines
    Wildlife Value:
    The fruits are eaten by birds. Bees and other insects pollinate the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Easy to Grow
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The ripe berries are edible in limited quantities. They may be made into jam. The green and unripe berries are poisonous. The leaves are cooked and prepared as a vegetable in some countries.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 4 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Herb
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Weed
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • 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:
    3 feet-6 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a soft globular berry that grows in clusters. As the berry matures, it will appear fleshy and transition from green to black or purplish black. They measure 0.25 inches in diameter and appear from July to November. The seeds are disk-shaped, flat, and measure 2 mm in diameter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Tepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers bloom from May to August. The flower stalk supports 3 to 12 flowers in umbel-like cymes. The bloom is tiny, star-shaped, and has 5 white petals. Sometimes the bloom may be flushed with purple or pale blue. The center of the flower has a yellow-green center. There are five stamens, and the anthers are yellow. The flower diameter is 5 to 7 mm.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Entire
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green on the upper surface and lighter green and tinged with purple on the undersides. They are alternate, simple, and ovate to lanceolate. The leaf is 1.5 to 4 inches long, 1 to 3 inches wide, and the margins are entire, wavy, or coarsely dentate. The surface of the leaf may be hairy or smooth.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Angular
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are erect, stout, hairy or hairless, angular-shaped, and may become woody at the base. The stem color is green and maybe tinged with purple.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    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:
    Hypersalivation, severe gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, CNS depression, abdominal pain, confusion, nausea, behavioral change, weakness, dilated pupils, slow heart rate. May be fatal.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Solanine alkaloid, saponins, atropine like substances
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Leaves