Great Britain

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Bittersweet -Solanum Dulcamara

Solanum dulcamara, also known as bittersweet, blue bindweed, Amara Dulcis, climbing nightshade, fellenwort, felonwood, poisonberry, poisonflower, scarlet berry, snakeberry, trailing bittersweet, trailing nightshade, violet bloom, or woody nightshade, is a species of vine in the potato genus Solanum, family Solanaceae.


It is found in a range of habitats, from woodlands to scrubland, hedges and marshes. Bittersweet is a semi-woody herbaceous perennial vine, which scrambles over other plants. The leaves are roughly arrowhead-shaped, and often lobed at the base and the flowers are in loose clusters star-shaped, with five purple petals and yellow stamens and style pointing forward.

The fruit is an ovoid red berry, soft and juicy, and edible for birds, which disperse the seeds widely.

Biological activity

Bittersweet is used in naturopathy and herbalism. Its main usage is for conditions that have an impact on the skin, mucous membrane and the membrane around the joints, the active ingredients being dulcamarine and solanine. Bittersweet is considered by someto be a herbal remedy for treating herpes and allergies. The stems are approved by the German Commission E for external use as supportive therapy in chronic eczema.


Although the berries are edible for birds, and it is less toxic than the deadly nightshade. It has caused fatalities, particularly in children who sometimes mistake the ripe berries for redcurrants, as alongwith the foliage it is poisonous to humans and livestock.

Symptoms of poisoning

Symptoms can include paralyses of the central nervous system, leading to respiratory collapse and a convulsive death. Other effects can be loss of speech – which may be the source of tales of people struck dumb by a witch’s curse.

 (Source: Poisonous Plants in Great Britain, Fredrick Gillam)