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Black Nightshade

Black Nightshade
     (Alternative names: Eastern Black Nightshade, West Indian Nightshade)
Solanum ptycanthum
(Order Lamiales; Family Solanaceae)


Diagnosis:  Black nightshade is an annual herb with erect stems that commonly diverge branching from the base.  The plant is generally 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) tall. Leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern and can be highly variable in shape and size.  The blades are generally ovate to oval with margins entire.  Surfaces can be glabrous to sparsely pubescent.  Flower petals are white, star-shaped, occasionally bluish or purple-streaks and with obvious yellow stamens.  Immature berries are green and mature to a shiny or dull purplish-black.

Nightshade flower (left) ( Green, unripe berries (right)  (

Black, ripe berries (

Flowering period: June through November.


Visitors:  Bumblebees collect pollen from the flowers.  Moth caterpillars and birds feed on black nightshade, but it is generally avoided by mammalian herbivores because of the toxic alkaloid (solanum) that is found in the leaves.


Distribution map.

Habitat: Moist, open woodlands, prairie ravines, stream banks, roadsides, and waste places.

Native status: Native to U.S.

Conservation status:  Not threatened.

Uses:  If the berries are fully ripe (black) and eaten in small quantities, they can be consumed by humans.  Green berries contain the toxic solanum alkaloid.

Video: Eat the Weeds: Episode 120: The American Nightshade Part 1. 


Remarks: This species is also classified as a variant of Solanum nigrum under the name S. nigrum L. var. virginicum L.

Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Hilty, John. 2011. Prairie Wildflowers of Illinois. (URL

Image credits:
Green (unripe) berries:
Nightshade flower:
Distribution map:
Black (ripe) berries:
YouTube: Eat the Weeds: Episode 120: The American Nightshade Part 1:

Submitted by: Amy Coffman, July 2011.

Wichita State University
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