The Q&A Archives: Night Shade Plants

Question: Is nightshade poisonious enough to be worried about it if there is one growing in your flower bed? I dont know how it got there but I'm pretty sure that's what it is. Its a very pretty plant and I wouldn't mind letting it grow just to see what it does. It has grown like crazy and seems to be multiplying so maybe I don't want to leave it. Any information you could give would be appreciated.

Answer: There are three members of the Nightshade family that are common to the Pacific Northwest. They crop up most anywhere because, while the berries are poisonous to humans, birds love them. Birds consume the berries and deposit the seeds wherever they happen to go.

Bitter nightshade is a climbing or trailing perennial that can grow to 10' tall. The leaves are dark green to dark purplish, 1"-4" long, often with one or two lobes or leaflets at the base. The flowers are star shaped, having purple petals and prominent yellow or orange anthers. The fruits are clusters of bright red, ball-shaped berries. Bitter nightshade grows in moist areas and all parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten in sufficient quantity. This is the most commonly found nightshade.

Silverleaf nightshade is a perennial growing 1'-3' tall and spreading by rhizomes or seeds. The stems are sparsely covered with short yellow thorns and the leaves and stems are covered with dense short hairs that give the foliage a gray or silvery appearance. Flowers are violet to light blue and yellow centers. The mature furit is a yellow or dull orange berry which turns black. The berries and foliage are poisonous to livestock.

Black nightshade is an annual growing 6"-24" tall. The leaves are smooth or wavy-edged and tapered to the tip and the flowers are white to pale blue. The green fruit and foliage contain toxic alkaloids.

While the flowers of all the nightshades are attractive, their potential to overrun a cultivated garden should be enough to encourage you to pull the plants up and dispose of them as soon as you can!

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