The Q&A Archives: Weed Identification

Question: I have a plant growing rampant in my yard that a friend thinks is deadly nightshade. Is it indeed deadly? If so, how do I remove it? The plant is vine-like with dark, shiny leaves and it wraps around anything it can.

Answer: There are many weedy species of the nightshade family. The plant you describe sounds like bittersweet nightshade vine (Solanum dulcamara). It's a trailing or climbing perennial with spreading stems up to 10 feet. Leaves are dark green to sometimes dark purplish, 1 to 4 inches long, often with one to several lobes or leaflets at the base. Flowers are star-shaped, with purple petals and prominent yellow or orange anthers (centers). The flowers are easy to identify because they're so unusual. The flowers then turn into green berries that ripen to red or purplish-black. The colorful berries may attract children, and consumption of many berries can make them ill. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) does not fit the description you have provided. However, to be on the safe side you may want to bring a sample of the plant to the horticulture specialist at your cooperative extension office for a positive identification. Most weeds can be kept in check with a combination of repeated hand pulling and heavy mulching.

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