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please help me id this plant

Posted by beluga01 (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 3, 09 at 17:48

My wife brought me 20 red berries in one bunch, she found growing next to the sidewalk during a walk in suburban Bellingham last fall. She couldn't ID the shrub, but said it was about 8 feet tall and just as wide, and even seemed to be climbing over another shrub. Each individual berry contained 8 or ten tiny seeds that filled up the whole inside. There was very little flesh on the berries. But they were soft. Looked a bit like a large red currant.

i put one berry in each of 8 pots in March. Every one of them germinated, and each berry produced about 8 or 10 plants. Now i have 8 plants growing in 8 pots. The first leaves were heart-shaped and shiny green. I considered that it might be some species of Schisandra. Now some of the newer leaves are very uniquely shaped. I wish there was an easy way for me to add an image here, but I'll guess I'll have to try to describe a leaf. four inches long. Almost heart-shaped. But just where the bottom should start to curl inward, instead two arrow shaped horizontal projectiles jut out about 2 inches from the center. Each of these "projectiles" has another projectile about halfway along its length. I can imagine that, as the plant grows more, these leaves will start to separate into leaflets, but maybe not. I thought it might be some solanum, but couldn't find anything in this climate that looked remotely like what i have here. The leaves look very vaguely grape-like, but the fruit was berries full of seeds, and not much like a grape. And the leaves are quite shiny green, not at all rough like a grape. Or maybe some species of deciduous Viburnum? Any help is much appreciated.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: please help me id this plant

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 3, 09 at 18:13

Bittersweet nightshade.

RE: please help me id this plant

I'm glad you didn't eat them! I got some plants at a market a number of years ago - they were supposed to be eggplant. I kept watching but they only got little purple fruits that didn't grow any bigger. It turned out they were deadly nightshade and believe me, I've spent the next 10 years trying to get rid of them. What a pain....

RE: please help me id this plant

Thanks bboy and Dotty. Yes, i saw the pics online. That's it. I think I'll get rid of it. The only question that remains is why would anyone want to grow such an invasive and deadly plant as a focal point for their front yard.

RE: please help me id this plant

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 4, 09 at 19:17

Bittersweet nightshade is not deadly.

Dogs can be poisoned if they eat this stinking, noxious pest. It is not all bad: In herbal medicine, one use of the plant is for eczema

--A.L. Jacobson, Wild Plants of Greater Seattle - Second Edition (2008)

It probably came up on its own and they kept it. I've read that Thomas Jefferson grew tomato plants as ornamentals, because the fruits were assumed to be poisonous.

RE: please help me id this plant

I think the correct word usage here would be "PRESUMED to be poisonous." Unlike Jefferson and his sadly untasted tomatoes, it appears there is no doubt in anyone's mind, including your own, that this nightshade is deadly poisonous.

I am, myself, a preparer and user of many medicinal plants, and grow entire beds of cohosh, echinacea, astragalus, valerian, and scutellaria. So I can agree with you up to a point about honoring a plant for its medicinal utility. Let's consider growing this nightshade, indeed very carefully, if we are interested in preparing our own eczema medicine. And let's not discount the fact that many, gardeners, including me, favor aconitums, foxgloves, hellebores, all of which are undeniably toxic if ingested.

But in my case, with an entire berry orchard nearby (currants, blueberries, gojis, buckthorn), I think caution is the best choice in choosing to grow yet another berry producer, a poisonous temptation, which everyone agrees is a notoriously invasive shrub that that could potentially entice some neighborhood children to conceivably put it in their mouths. It is not anything I want to deal with. Nor am i willing to give it away to friends as a plant gift.

I was mostly looking for something ornamental and inexpensive to fill up a hole in my garden from a tree that died when it hit zero fahrenheit last winter. i can do better than the nightshade.

That's the background which motivated my action to get rid of this invasive plant.

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