The bittersweet Nightshade is an easily adaptable plant traveling along a semi-woody vine. Mainly found in areas with moist soils it has been known to adapt to forests and meadows. Its blue-violet flowers and bright red berries, can be useful to distinguish bittersweet nightshade from other nightshade species. All parts of the plant give off a disagreeable odor when bruised.
The flowers attract bumblebees and Halictid bees. Through the rapid vibration of thoracic muscles, the pollen is extracted from the flowers using "buzz pollination." Nectar is not available as a floral reward.
The foliage of Bittersweet Nighshade is toxic and unpleasant-tasting, therefore it is rarely bothered by mammalian herbivores. The fruits of nightshade species (Solanum spp.), including those of Bittersweet Nightshade, are eaten by such birds as the Wood Duck, Ruffed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, and Swamp Sparrow. Some mammals also eat these fruits, including the Raccoon, Striped Skunk, White-tailed Deer, White-footed Mouse, and Woodland Deer Mouse. Because the seeds are able to pass through the digestive tracts of many animals and remain viable, they are distributed to new locations, enabling this plant to spread. Because these fruits are considered potentially toxic to humans their consumption should be avoided. As a semi-woody vine that climbs fence rows and adjacent vegetation, Bittersweet Nightshade provides good nesting habitat and protective cover for birds and other animals.
Bittersweet nightshade was used to treat asthma, bronchitis, jaundice, kidney problems, rheumatism, skin diseases, syphilis, and to counteract witchcraft.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.