Nightshade, Climbing, Solanum dulcamara L.

Life Cycle



Reproducing by seed and by spreading underground rhizomes.


Stems are partially woody, weak, erect or vine-like and climbing over fence lines and other vegetation, 1-3 m long, usually dying back close to the ground each year but in milder area or if protected by snow becoming thick and woody in the lower part, hairless or short-hairy, with lengthwise-shredding, light gray bark.


Alternate leaves (1 per node), simple (a) or lobed with 1 or more lobes (b) near the base giving them a mitten-like appearance.

Flowers and Fruit

Flowers in branched clusters; each flower is star-shaped, with a 5-pointed light blue to violet or rarely white corolla, in the centre of which is a slender pyramid of 5 united bright yellow stamens. Flowers followed by oblong green berries, 8-12 mm long which turn bright red and juicy when ripe. Flower in June and July. Berries that ripen in August often remain on stems into winter.


Climbing nightshade occurs throughout Ontario in open woods, edges of fields, fence lines, roadsides, and occasionally in hedges and gardens.

Distinguishing Features

Stems, roots, leaves and sometimes the green berries have a disagreeable civet-cat odour when bruised. It is distinguished by its vine habit, its shredding light gray back on older stems, its usually mitten-shaped flowers, its juicy red berries, and its strong disagreeable odour.


Stems and leaves are poisonous to livestock. The attractive, bright red berries have a bitter and sweet flavour, and, although some people can apparently eat them without harm, children have reputedly been poisoned by eating them. More detail information on toxicity can be found at the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

Figure #1.

Climbing nightshade.

Figure #10.

Ripe nightshade berries.

Figure #2.

Climbing nightshade near river, early July in central Ontario.

Figure #3.

Note alternate leaf arrangement of climbing nightshade.

Figure #4.

Leaf of climbing nightshade. Note distinctive lobes at base of leaf.

Figure #5.

Figure #6.

Smooth stem of climbing nightshade - variable in surface and colour.

Figure #7.

Hairy stem of climbing nightshade - variable in surface and colour.

Figure #8.

Purple flowers of climbing nightshade.

Figure #9.

Oblong green berries that follow purple flowers of climbing nightshade.