Woody Nightshade

Woody Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, is curiously and persistently mistaken for the better known Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna, despite the very different appearance of the flowers and fruit.

Woody Nightshade

Some theories suggest the confusion has proliferated on the Internet and a Google Images search for Deadly Nightshade demonstrates the extent of the misinformation.  Even the Royal Horticultural Society seem to struggle with the identification of Deadly Nightshade!

However pre-Internet memories survive that indicate the confusion may also stem from parental warnings to avoid the poisonous plant.  Woody Nightshade is much more commonly found than the relatively rare Deadly Nightshade, and despite the Woody variety being less poisonous than Deadly Nightshade, no parent wants their child experimenting with the attractive red berries.  Therefore calling the distinctive plant as 'deadly' will likely act as a warning well heeded.  Even this website erroneously labeled pictures of Woody Nightshade for a number of years!

Woody Nightshade

Other common names include bittersweet, shady night, snakeberry, witch flower, poison flower and poisonberry.

During the Middle Ages shepherds believed the plant would protect their flock from a witch's evil eye, by hanging a necklace of Woody Nightshade around their necks.  This belief was sometimes extended to other animals such as cows and horses, or even people.

The red berries are reputed to be wart removers, though this is not advisable.

Woody Nightshade can be found scrambling through hedgerows, woodlands and scrubland in Gower.

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