Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Solanaceae

Deadly Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)

Also called Bittersweet, Scarletberry, and a large number of other names.This is not the Deadly Nightshade that was such a favorite in the Borgias’ kitchen garden; that plant was Atropa belladonna, an even more  poisonous relative. This has attractive little purple flowers and bright red berries; it’s a rank and weedy vine that runs riot in hedges and on banks. Here we see a bumblebee (Bombus beeus) coming in for a landing on a plant that grew along a fence in Beechview, where it was blooming in early August.

SOLANUM [Tourn.] L. NIGHTSHADE. Calyx and wheel-shaped corolla 6-parted or 5-cleft (rarely 4-10-parted), the latter plaited in the bud, and valvate or inriuplicate. Stamens exserted; filaments very short; anthers converging around the style, opening at the tip by two pores or chinks. Berry usually 2-celled. Herbs, or shrubs in warm climates, the larger leaves often accompanied by a smaller lateral (rameal) one; the peduncles also mostly lateral and extra-axillary. — A vast genus, chiefly in warmer regions. (Name of unknown derivation.)

Not prickly; anthers blunt; flowers and globose naked berries small.

Perennial, climbing or twining.

S. dulcamara L. (BITTERSWEET.) More or less pubescent; leaves dvate-heart-shaped, the upper haiberd-ehaped, or with 2 ear-like lobes or leaflets at base; flowers (purple or blue) in small cymes; berries ovoid, red. — Moist banks and around dwellings. June-Sept. (Nat. from Eu.)

In Wild Flowers East of the Rockies (1910), Chester Albert Reed gives us this description:

BITTERSWEET; NIGHTSHADE (Solanum Dulcamara) (EUROPEAN), although an immigrant, is quite common in the eastern half of our country. It chooses for its habitat, moist thickets or the edges of ponds where there are plenty of shrubs to help support it, for this species has weak stems with climbing tendencies.

It is a species that often attracts the attention of the casual passerby because of the beauty and quaint forms of its flowers and leaves. It grows from 2 to 8 feet tall and throws out numerous, long branches that climb and sprawl over the surrounding vegetation. The dark green leaves are variable in form; some are lobed, others have small lateral leaflets and still others have another pair of still smaller leaflets on the leaf stem. The flowers hang in loose clusters on long peduncles from the axils of the leaves; they have five, reflexed, purple petals and a yellow, conical center formed by the stamens. The berries that succeed the flowers are first green, then turn yellow and ultimately a deep ruby-red. This species blooms from June until September and, like most plants with a long period of bloom, we may often find flowers and berries in all stages of color at the same time.


Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense)

A very prickly member of the nightshade or tomato family. It makes up a little for its thorny disposition by growing attractive white flowers with the brightest yellow stamens you can imagine. The flowers may fade to lavender as they age. This plant was blooming in early June in the plantings outside the Hilton hotel downtown in Gateway Center, where apparently the gardeners have not been adequately paid.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

SOLANUM [Tourn.] L. NIGHTSHADE
Calyx and wheel-shaped corolla 5-parted or 5-cleft (rarely 4-10-parted), the latter plaited in the bud, and valvate or induplicate. Stamens exserted; filaments very short; anthers eonvrnjing around the style, opening at the tip by two pores or chinks. Berry usually 2-celled. Herbs, or shrubs in warm climates, the larger leaves often accompanied by a smaller lateral (rameal) one; the peduncles also mostly lateral and extra-axillary. A vast genus, chiefly in warmer regions. (Name of unknown derivation.)

S. carolinense L. (HORSE NETTLE.) Hirsute or roughish-pubescent with 4-8-rayed hairs; prickles stout, yellowish, copious (rarely scanty); leaves oblong or ovate, obtusely sinuate-toothed or lobed or sinuate-pinnatifid; racemes simple, soon lateral; calyx-lobes acuminate; berry 1-1.5 cm. broad. Sandy soil and waste grounds, N. E. to Ont., westw. and south w.; adventive eastw.


Ground Cherry (Physalis pubescens)

Ground cherries grow almost wherever there is ground. We have two species in the area; both produce edible fruit inside their little Japanese lanterns, although it’s not usually much good until a week or two after it falls off the plant. (The papery lantern is toxic, so don’t eat it.) This Physalis pubescens grew in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon.

The flowers face downward and so are easily missed, but they’re worth examining closer. The color is primrose yellow with mahogany splotches around the center. They look like little Tiffany lanpshades, almost always held wide open and facing the ground.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

PHYSALIS L. GROUND CHERRY
Calyx 5-cleft, reticulated and enlarging after flowering, at length much inflated and inclosing the 2-celled globular (edible) berry. Corolla between wheel-shaped and funnel-form, the very short tube marked with 5 concave spots at the base; the plaited border somewhat 5-lobed or barely 5-10-toothed. Stamens 5, erect; anthers separate, opening lengthwise. Ours herbs with extra-axillary peduncles; flowering through the summer. (Name physalis, a bladder, from the inflated calyx.)

P. pubescens L. Pubescent but not hoary; leaves thin, entire at least near the oblique but rarely cordate base; stem slender, geniculate, diffusely branched; fruiting calyx subglobose, shortly acuminate, carinately b-angled. Pa. to Va., and westw.


Common Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

2009-09-12-Solanum-nigrum

This common and poisonous little member of the tomato family grows in vacant lots, at the edge of the sidewalk, and anywhere else it can gain a foothold. Up close, the little white flowers with bright yellow centers are cheerful and pretty.


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