Monday, April 20, 2009

An Apple, My Pretty?

Bittersweet Nightshade "Solanum dukamara"
Photo from IL wild flower web page
I'm afraid the Wicked Witch knew a thing or two about poisoning.

I'm going to run a "Poisonous Plant" article about once a week. There are too many for one space.

Bittersweet Nightshade is poisonous and has caused loss of livestock and pet poisoning and has caused death in children who accidentally picked the berries. Bittersweet nightshade also has a strong, unpleasant odor so most animals will avoid it and poisonings from this plant are not very frequent.

The entire plant contains solanine, the same toxin found in green potatoes and other members of the nightshade family, and it also contains a glycoside called dulcamarine, similar in structure and effects to atropine, one of the toxins found in deadly nightshade. The toxin amount varies with soil, light, climate and growth stage. Ripe fruits are less toxic than the leaves and unripe berries but even ripe berries can be poisonous.

It is one of those beautiful vines that can be attractive to children - the little flowers are a bright purple and yellow and berries, as they ripen, are green, yellow, orange, and red. If you have this plant growing in your gardens, it would be wise to pull and dispose where it won't take root. If it has got out of control, you may want to use chemical weedkiller. If you have a strong allergic reaction to some plants, do not burn in case the smoke carries the oils.

It spreads by birds dropping seeds and by the roots and stems moving in the soil. It is said to vine up to thirty feet but I have never seen it that big in this area.

This plant was a tough one for me to finally destroy. It vined in with some greenery and was delicate and beautiful. But, this one is not worth it with little grandchildren wandering the paths.

And a disclaimer for those wishing to play Wicked Witch: All plant poisons are easily detected in an autopsy. I know that sounds so suspecting and cold - but some people, as-well-as some plants, are so beautiful on the outside and quite deadly on the inside.

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