The Q&A Archives: What's this "vine"?

Question: I have a volunteer bushy vine that I am having trouble identifying. The stem is dark, purplish, and leaves are dark green. Leaves start out heart-shaped, then become lobed with pointed "ears". Grape-like clusters of green berries follow small purplish tubular blossoms. These gradually turn red in the fall. There are no tendrils, but the plant seems to spread by root system, and seems quite tough. So far it has reached about 4-5ft tall this year, and is about two feet wide. It doesn't seem poisonous, although the birds seem to avoid the fruit until late.
Can you help?

Answer: It sounds as though you might have Bitter Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) growing in your yard. It's a trailing or climbing perennial with spreading stems up to 10 feet. The leaves are dark green to sometimes dark purplish, 1 to 4 inches long, with lobes or leaflets at the base. The flowers are star-shaped, with purple petals and prominent yellow or orange anthers. Fruits are bright red, arranged in open clusters. All parts of this plant are toxic. Birds often consume the ripe berries and deposit seeds far and wide. You'll find an excellent picture, plus additional text, in the book "Weeds of the West" from the University of Wyoming ISBN# 0-941570-13-4. Perhaps your library has a copy.

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