Bittersweet Nightshade
Solanum dulcamaraSolanaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerFruitLeaf
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Climbing nightshade, European bittersweet, Woody nightshade, Fellenwort

The Plant:

  • A perennial vine, sometimes woody, 3-10 feet long. Plants are climbing or straggling.

The Leaves:

  • alternate
  • ovate
  • dark green
  • short, soft hairs
  • purple tinge
  • unpleasant odor
  • deeply 3-lobed or divided
  • some leaves simple
  • heart shaped base

The Stem:

  • green maturing to dark red to black
  • glabrous
  • possible hairs when young
  • hollow
  • woody base

The Flowers:

  • Blue-violet, or rarely white, five-petaled flowers with two shiny dark green spots on each petal. The anthers are fused and yellow and the petals are reflexed and fused at the base. The flowers are drooping with the cymes opposite the leaves, 10 to 25 flowers per inflorescence. Blooms from May to September.

The Fruits:

  • juicy
  • ovate
  • green ripen to red
  • contain disk shaped yellow seeds
  • fruit may persist

The Habitat:

  • edges of disturbed or cultivated fields
  • stream or river banks
  • gardens
  • dry soils
  • prefers moist conditions
  • tolerates shade


  • seeds dispersed by birds
  • spreads vegetatively when nodes of horizontal stems touch soil and take root

Key ID Features:

  • vine
  • alternate
  • unpleasant odor
  • soft hairs
  • 3-lobed
  • woody based red to black stems
  • blue-violet flowers
  • juicy, green-red fruits

Similar Species:

  • A similar plant is Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), which is an annual, has white to very pale purple flowers and black fruit.


  • This vine can pull down smaller native plants
  • seedlings are tolerant of low-light conditions
  • Fruit and leaves are toxic to animals and humans.
  • On Nantucket, this species produces many seedlings in the natural areas where it has establishes. It tends to be more abundant in disturbed habitats. Dense populations occur on Miacomet Pond.

Growth Form: Herb

Origin: Europe, North Africa, Eastern Asia

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Likely Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Not evaluated

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston