Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Solanales - Family: Solanaceae
Bittersweet, also known as Woody Nightshade, is a member of the same family as the potato and tomato. This relative of the deadly nightshade is also a poisonous plant, but far less so than its notorious cousin.
Climbing to a typical height of 1 to 2m, but occasionally attaining 4m when a suitable support is available, Solanum dulcamara has arrowhead-shaped stalked leaves, sometimes with small basal lobes. The star-shaped flowers, typically 1.3cm across, grow in small clusters; they have recurved purple petals and projecting yellow stamens and styles.
Initially developing as green berries, in autumn the fruits turn bright red and shiny when ripe.
Bittersweet is common and found throughout Britain and Ireland except in the far north. It is also found in much of Europe, parts of western Asia and North Africa. Elsewhere, including North America, this is an introduced species and in some places it has become seriously invasive.
This perennial climbing plant is mainly seen in hedgerows and on moist grassy banks beside rivers, streams and ponds.
In Britain and Ireland, Bittersweet blooms from June until September.
The pictures shown on this page were taken in West Wales in June and July.
We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...