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What is this plant with a bunch of small red berries and shiny spear-shaped leaves with twin leaflets at the bases?

Photo of a cluster of red berries

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This is Solanum dulcamara, commonly "bittersweet nightshade"*, one of the more deadly weeds one might encounter.

It's a member of the "nightshade" family, Solanaceae. You can see the resemblance in the fruit and leaves to tomatoes and peppers. It grows freely in reasonably dry soil, and especially likes somewhere that it can climb, like the fenced edge of a lawn. If you see it in flower, it will have interesting 5-pointed purple blossoms, each with a prominent yellow "beak". The berries are oblong, green at first, sometimes changing through yellow and orange before settling on the bright red in your picture.

All parts of the plant contain the neurotoxin solanine, which is estimated to be fatal in doses as low as 5 or 6 mg per kg of body weight.

It's a pretty plant, but keep the kids away from it.


*Note that it's not the only plant that has this common name.

  • I lived with many of such Solanum (and other related species). When I was a children I like to splash the fruits, and I'm alive. And no, it is not very toxic, like many other wild plant populates my region. I also never seen a children dying for eating plants and mushrooms in wild. (but adults die more often for it, they are much more reckless). So stop such terrorism about deadly plants. BTW: "dulcamara" mean "sweet and sour", so botanists tasted it. Just don't do it. – Giacomo Catenazzi Aug 21 '17 at 7:27
  • And as a second comment. You cited few solanaceae, but you forgot one, which BTW is also really a Solanum: Solanum tuberosum: the potato – Giacomo Catenazzi Aug 21 '17 at 7:29
  • If you've consumed a plant that is known to be poisonous and had no problem, then good for you, you've had a nearly unique experience. That doesn't mean everyone else should try it. Solanine is a very toxic substance and it is present in this plant. – Josh Caswell Aug 21 '17 at 11:04
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi This one has the common name Woody Nightshade in the UK, it is Solanum dulcamara, and I disagree regarding its toxicity, particularly to chiildren. It nearly killed my four year old son when he ate 3 or 4 berries, was admitted to hospital for nearly a week till he recovered, with treatment. I'd suggest ripping it out asap – Bamboo Aug 21 '17 at 11:14
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    I think we can delete this discussion. It could just cause some troubles to new users. – Giacomo Catenazzi Aug 21 '17 at 13:06

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