Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Woody Nightshade



Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

It's an overcast and misty Tuesday. Cooper and I took her favorite walk, through Loppergarth, past the Cowran Estate with its Scottish Highland Cattle, and up to Lindal. She likes it because at one point there's a gate leading to a field of rare-breed pigs. They're huge. She'll stand there, watch them, listen to their snorts.

This walk is a favorite of mine too because of the Woody Nightshade (aka Bittersweet). I think I cover, more or less, 10 miles of countryside walking the dogs on a regular basis and I've only found Woody Nightshade in this one spot - just before Lindal where we turn to retrace our steps for home. I always stop to admire the purple and yellow. I've tried many times to take a good photo but somehow the pictures don't do it justice.



Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

Leaf may have 2 small basal lobes
Woody Nightshade is like an ivy or like goosegrass in that it seems to like to grow over the other shrubs in the hedge. There don't seem to be tendrils; it's just that the stem is sturdy enough to support the upward growth - just enough - so that it settles into the hedge.

Looking carefully, I noticed a cluster of green berries. They're said to contain a toxic substance (solanine). A bit too much like its sister Deadly Nightshade (which is of course deadly).

I realized at that point, at the turnaround, that it would be tough going to find the blossoms for a fresh vase of cut flowers - it is Tuesday, after all. Herb-Robert is still blooming, along with nettlewort, red campion, and meadowsweet. But nothing new - nothing abundant enough or suitable for a vase. Certainly not the Nightshade.

How do I know?
Confidence level: ★★★★★
Habitat: Hedgerow between road and pasture (sheep)
Leaves: Cordate (broad base with pointed tip; lower (larger) leaves may have 1 or 2 rounded lobes at base)
Stem: slender, ivy-like, woody
Insects observed: none
Flower: two-tone: purple/yellow; 5 pointed purple petals bending back toward stem / central yellow cone
Bloom: July
Odor: none
Fruit: green berries (July)

Woody Nightshade Woody Nightshade berries

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