War on Weeds: Bittersweet nightshade

Richard Old

Richard Old

This weed may invade your land. Be ready to oppose it.

The Enemy: Bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

Strategy: Bittersweet nightshade is a perennial vinelike plant that grows in disturbed areas. It was originally brought in as an ornamental in the early 1900s, so it usually can be found around old homesteads. It has an arrow-shaped leaf that gets its appearance by one large leave that is usually lobed at the base. It produces a purple flower that houses a yellow, banana-shaped center. The flower turns into a green and then red berry that, like many nightshade family members (including potatoes), is quite toxic if eaten. Make sure you keep children away, as the berries look like very small tomatoes. Unlike other nightshade members, this one leaves a woody stem behind during winter months.

Attack: As this plant spreads by birds that eat the berries, it can show up anywhere the bird roosts. Once established, it climbs up the host and steals all the sunlight and nutrients the hose needs to survive. It especially likes to grow in shady areas along streams and landscape settings where there is an abundance of water. Livestock will not eat the plant, so it will continue to grow along fences and shelter areas.

Defense: As this is a perennial, unless caught when quite young hand pulling or tilling will usually not control it. Herbicides are best early in the season. One could try 2,4-D, but the best result is either something such as Garlon 3 (Vaslan), Curtail, Opensight or a Dicamba (Banvel)-based material is best. In ornamental settings, you’re stuck with Lontrel, 2,4-D plus Roundup or pulling it; make sure you wear gloves because of plant’s toxicity. Consult with a professional for proper identification and control in your land use issues.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email weeds@co.bonneville.id.us.