Montag, 4. Juni 2012

Plant of the Day (June 4th, 2012) - Solanum dulcamara L.


Today's “Plant of the Day” is Solanum dulcamara L. from the Solanaceae family. In Germany, this species is known as “Bittersüßer Nachtschatten” or “Bittersüß”. Common English names are “bittersweed”, “nightshade” or “felonwood”. The reason for this name are the berries. First, they taste bitter, then sweet. “Nightshade” refers to the hallucinogenic effect, which is caused by eating the fruits.

S. dulcamara - Habitus

It's a semi-shrub, which can reach heights between 30 and 200 centimetres (). The stalk can grow upright but also decumbent. In the most cases, this depends on the presence of flowers. Stalks with inflorescences grow upright, while stalks without any flowers grow decumbent. As semi-shrub, the lower regions of the stalks are woody but not the upper part. The leaf-shape varies from leaf to leaf. Some leaves are lanceolate, while others are egg-shaped or have auricles. However, all leaves have a smooth margin, a petiole and are evergreen. The whole plant is bald.

S. dulcamara - flowers

The inflorescence is an overhanging cincinnus (Wickel in German). The flowers are very small with only 1 centimetre in diameter. The sepals are green, while the petals have a violet colour. Their tips are folded back, while stamens are fused to a golden yellow tube, which surpass the calyx significantly. So, the flowers of S. dulcamara have a very characteristic look, which makes it easy to identify the species. Flowering time is from June to August. The ripe fruit is red, egg-shaped berry.

S. dulcamara - flowers

S. dulcamara is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa. It prefers fresh to moist places but can also tolerate dryness. So, it can be found e. g. in riparian forests, wet meadows, shores and ditches. Like most members of the Solanaceae, the plant is toxic through a high content of alkaloids in all of its parts ; especially the berries.

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