Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nightshade in the Garden and August's Books

Today we got an early start to the day, it was registration day at the high school, and time to get class schedules sorted out.  Fall is just around the corner, and the start of a new school year is always exciting.

The weather was nice today, not too hot, so I decided to get some weeding done, and prep the garden for a few fall veggies.

I had some grassy weeds that were tall and are starting to go to seed, I left this one out in the middle of our gravel walkway, it looks really pretty blowing around in the breeze.

Then I decided to work on weeding my unruly patch of lavender and came across the weed below. In just a little over a week it was really starting to take over the lavender bed.  My daughter and I started pulling it, we both thought the purple flower was pretty, but then I noticed green berries on the vine, so we stopped so I could look up what plant it was, I was concerned it was poisonous and wanted to make sure we were handling it's removal correctly.

After a search on Google, I found it is was most likely Bittersweet Nightshade or Solanum Dulcamara, and was, as I suspected, poisonous.  You can read the Wikipedia page on  Solanum Dulcamara.

The plant has clusters of these little purple flowers with a yellow stamen, the berries on the plants in my garden are currently green, but apparently will turn red.

Here is the shape of one of the larger leaves.  The whole plant is attracting some sort of pest, and the leaves have quite a bit of insect damage.  I plan on digging the rest of this plant out tomorrow with hubby, it is poisonous, and my lab Zoey, who loves the lavender patch, and nibbling on garden greens, could be in danger if she gets a hold of this plant.

Had I been more observant I should have seen the connection to the nightshade family of plants.  Look at the shape of that flower.

Look at the shape of these tomato flowers, growing only a few feet away.  The tomato is also in the nightshade group of plants, and the plants are strikingly similar.

I am now concerned about cross pollination between my cherry tomatoes and the bittersweet nightshade, they are only a few feet away, and both next to my lavender which is covered in happily pollinating bees.  I have tried searching out this info, most people say they won't cross pollinate, but one person said that she got sick from a tomato in her garden that was growing near a patch of bittersweet nightshade.  I don't know enough about cross pollination to know, so until I figure it out I have put a temporary ban on the cherry tomato patch.  Any ideas gardening friends?  Have you ever come across this weed in your garden?


All this poison plant talk got me to thinking about my favorite Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, Rappaccini's Daughter.   I first read this short story in my high school Junior English class, and loved it.  Set in 18th century Italy, a young scholar falls in love with a young women who tends her father's poisonous garden.  A very intriguing, mysterious short story, I would highly recommend it.

You can find a very inexpensive digital collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Short stories at Amazon, here is my link.

Of course you can probably find a copy of Hawthorne's works at the library as well.  We also watched a film adaption of the story in our high school class, a very interesting little movie.  Years later I searched out a copy of the film on VHS, and enjoy watching it from time to time.  I played it for Sarah and Joe earlier this summer, and they thought it was interesting as well, despite the 1980's style filming. :)

I may have to upgrade to DVD soon before my old VHS wears out.  You can read more about the movie at Amazon.  I believe you can also watch it on Netflix.

I also thought I would share what I am currently reading.  I have been making good use of the library this summer, and have done lots of reading.

I have just about finished up Radical Homemakers.  I had seen it recommended many times, and it turned out to have a lot of wonderful information on simple living, and choosing to live life rather than focus primarily on consuming- consuming less and creating more, living life around family and community.  Very thought provoking book.

For fun I checked out Stitched Whimsy.  This book looked like it would have a lot of fun felt project ideas, and it does.  Very cute projects, lots of animals, dolls and ornaments, mushrooms and gnomes, soft play food, and simple patterns to follow.  Ideas for fabric, felt, and needle felting.  I am really enjoying this book and need to get out my wool felt stash and sew up a few of these projects. :)

I hope everyone is having a nice week.  If you have any more information about the bittersweet nightshade weed, I would love to know.


  1. I think that's the weed that I have been pulling up around my Russian Sage for the last two years. Fast growing..wants to take over!

  2. Nightshade, pretty but not something you want. I had this growing in an easement between my back fence and the fence of the farm in back of us. It was impossible to control as Himalayan Blackberries were also growing there. Even though these blackberries are another noxious weed here in the Northwest, they were delicious.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

  3. That nightshade looks so pretty to be so dangerous, April. Bet you'd rather have some more globe thistles growing instead of this! Maybe it is safe to eat the tomatoes, but I don't know if I'd risk it. I always error on the side of caution.

  4. Just a quick note to let you know that starting tomorrow, I will begin hosting a new photo meme on my blog. Please come join me at "Orange You Glad It's Friday", and post a photo displaying a little or a lot of orange, my favorite color! Hope to see you there!

  5. Love Radical Homemakers, it's such a good book. Will definitely have to check the other one out as well!

  6. I get rid of this stuff whenever possible; don't want any of the animals eating it by accident.
    Visiting via Rural Thursday Blog Hop.

  7. Jane~ I definitely would like my old globe thistle compared to this weed. :) I agree, I will probably stay on the safe side, and not let the family eat he nearby cherry tomatoes, luckily I grew more on the other side of the garden.

    Sounds like a lot of you have had this in the garden, I will definitely keep an eye out for anymore of this weed.

  8. I haven't seen this around our garden area -- but I'm glad you identified so I can keep an eye out for it.

  9. that is a bummer about the nightshade. it is such a lovely plant, such pretty flowers.

  10. Wow that was very informative. I don't think I would have suspected such a pretty plant.


I love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and ideas. Please feel free to leave a comment.