BITTERSWEET (Solanum dulcamara)


bittersweet flowers


Solanum dulcamara, a species of woody vine in the potato family, likes to grow in moist, dark places. It can be robust, scrambling over other plants and covering them with a curtain of matt green arrow-shaped leaves.

Bittersweet and Green Alkanet


Bees Favourite.

Bees pay this wildflower constant attention over its long flowering season, seeking out the star-shaped PURPLE and YELLOW flowers wherever they appear. When pollinated, the flowers become toxic RED berries.


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“.

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.”


Wikipedia cites biological uses of Bittersweet against chronic eczema, E.Coli and ringworm.



‘The red berries are very attractive, very toxic but, fortunately, very bitter so it is implicated in only a handful of accidental poisonings.’



 bittersweet buds

  Bittersweet’s Irish name is Fuath dubh: …“this scrambling plant trails itself through hedgerows and scrub and is also to be found on maritime shingle…”


Other names: Amara dulcis, Bitter nightshade, Bittersweet nightshade, Blue bindweed, Climbing nightshade, Dwale, Felonwood, Fellenwort, Fevertwig, Fool’s cap, Poisonberry, Poisonflower, Scarlet berry, Skawcoo, Snakeberry, Tether-devil, Trailing nightshade, Violet-bloom, Wild Potato Flower, Wolfgrape, Woody nightshade


The Bittersweet climber in the Northeast corner of our back garden was there for years, growing some two metres high. In 2016 a new, self-seeded Bittersweet vine appeared at the front of the house, climbing vigorously through our garden railings. When flowering time came it was quickly discovered by bees.

Bittersweet front garden crop.


Bittersweet, front garden


Black Nightshade

Solanum nigrum

In August 2019 a relative of Bittersweet – Black Nightshade – was found in our garden near the back fence, where plantlife had been left to grow wild.  Its cousin Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna) has the reputation of being most toxic in the family, but Black Nightshade is also recommended to be treated wth caution. Unlike its cousin Bittersweet, which is a Bees’ Favourite – not a single pollinator has yet shown any interest in ts small white flowers.


Julia’s Edible Weeds, a New Zealand website, says that Black Nightshade’s berries are edible when black (but NOT when green)… & its young plants are edible, when taken from clean, unsprayed ground. The Maori & people from Eurasia & India have no problems with Black nightshade as a food plant. It was listed as a ‘famine food plant’ in Chna in the 1500’s. In Greece and Turkey young leaves and berries are steamed with other leaves in a dish called horta.