Bittersweet

©Anne Tanne

Bittersweet

Scientific name: Solanum dulcamara
Bittersweet is a nightshade, so is toxic; its bright red berries may be tempting, but can cause serious illness. Found in hedgerows and gardens, it has purple flowers with yellow stamens.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 1.5m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

May to October

About

Despite being a member of the nightshade family, Bittersweet (also known as 'Woody Nightshade') is one of the less toxic plants in this group, althought its berries are still poisonous. Found in hedgerows, gardens and even on shingle beaches, its purple flowers appear from May to September, and are followed by clusters of bright red berries.

How to identify

Bittersweet has oval, pointed leaves that are yellowy-green in colour. Purple flowers, with protruding yellow stamens, appear before the bright red, cherry tomato-like berries that hang in clusters.

Distribution

Widespread, but less common in Scotland.

Did you know?

The leaves of Bittersweet smell of burnt rubber when crushed.

How people can help

Although they might not look especially wildlife-friendly, our roadside verges, railway cuttings and waste grounds can provide valuable habitats for all kinds of plants and animals. The Wildlife Trusts are involved in many projects to make these places as beneficial for wildlife as possible. We have a vision of a Living Landscape: a network of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.