NS3981 : The berries of Bittersweet

taken 12 years ago, near to Balloch, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

The berries of Bittersweet
The berries of Bittersweet
(Solanum dulcamara, from Lat. "dulcis", sweet + "amārus", bitter.)

This plant was growing at the riverbank.

Bittersweet is the common name that is given in Stace's "New Flora of the British Isles", but this plant is also often referred to as Woody Nightshade. It does indeed belong to the Nightshade Family (the Solanaceae), a very diverse but economically important family that includes not just Deadly Nightshade, but also the potato, tomato, tobacco plants, and some kinds of pepper plant.

"All native and most cultivated members of the nightshade family are poisonous to some degree, even when part of the plant - e.g. the fruits in the case of tomatoes and the tubers in the case of potatoes - is edible. The toxins are alkaloids, chiefly hyoscyamine, hyoscine and atropine" [Richard Mabey, "Flora Britannica"].

At times, Bittersweet is the subject of a rather unhelpful confusion: as "Flora Britannica" goes on to note, it is popularly known as Deadly Nightshade in some parts of the country; "this is not only a misidentification but a misnomer: it is one of the less poisonous members of the family". The true Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladona) is a very different plant, which produces a glossy black berry.

The berries of Bittersweet, shown here, are initially green, then orange, finally becoming an attractive translucent red. While these berries are poisonous, they are considerably less so than those of Deadly Nightshade; and, as the name "Bittersweet" suggests, they are also so bitter as to be fairly unpalatable even to children, making instances of poisoning from this plant quite rare.

See also J3371 : Bittersweet (woody nightshade) flowers and berries, Stranmillis, Belfast (September 2015) and images linked from there.
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NS3981, 199 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Wednesday, 17 October, 2007   (more nearby)
Saturday, 20 September, 2008
Geographical Context
Rivers, Streams, Drainage 
Plant (from Tags)
Bittersweet  Woody Nightshade 
Image Buckets ?
Closeup  Life 
Near (from Tags)
River Leven 
Vegetation > Berries   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 390 818 [100m precision]
WGS84: 56:0.1398N 4:34.9297W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 390 818
View Direction
West-southwest (about 247 degrees)
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Poisonous Plant 

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