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Black Nightshade Organic Weed Control

Black nightshade weed
Black nightshade
Black nightshade

Black nightshade—also called deadly nightshade–is the most common of several nightshade weeds. The nightshades are close relatives of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants. The leaves and berries of nightshades contain toxic alkaloids that are harmful to humans and animals.

Hairy nightshade and cutleaf nightshade are two other garden weeds similar to black nightshade. Nightshades are annuals and sometimes short-lived perennials.

Description and Life Cycle of Black Nightshade:

  • Grows from 6 inches to 2½ feet tall with branching stems that may stand erect or lie on the ground.
  • Stems are triangular shaped.
  • Leaves are egg shaped, with smooth or wavy margins.
  • Leaves are alternate on the stem.
  • White or pale blue flowers are five petaled and resemble tomato flowers, drooping in clusters.
  • Small berries in bunches are dull green when young and black when mature; berries are toxic but not very palatable.
  • When plant parts are eaten they can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination, weakness, collapse, convulsions and possible death. Animals, pets, and humans should not eat black nightshade.
  • Reproduces by seed; seeds are small, yellow-to-brown, dull, and flattened.
  • Blooms in late summer.
  • Commonly found in disturbed soil or sometimes where root crops have grown.
  • Member of the Solanaceae family; same as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

Root System: Nightshades have a slender taproot that branches frequently.

Organic Control:

  • Remove young plants immediately; dig out the taproot.
  • Do not let the plant flower or drop seed.
  • Mulch to prevent seeds from germinating.
  • Place clear plastic on infested areas and solarize to kill seed.
  • Nightshades can host Colorado potato beetles and late blight fungus.

Range:  Eastern half of the United States and southeastern Canada.

Scientific name: Solanum nigrum (black nightshade); S. sarrachoides, hairy nightshade; S. triflorum, cutleaf nightshade.

 

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. Your information is not completely factual. Black nightshade is not the same as deadly nightshade. The species that is very poisonous is known by the Latin name, Atropa Belladonna, whereas black nightshade is known by the Latin name of Solanum Nigrum. Solanum Nigrum fruit grows in bunches/clusters, whereas, the fruit on Atropa Belladonna grow singularly along the plant. Another distinguishing feature is that the flowers on Solanum Nigrum are usually white, with its petals curving back toward the plant and resemble tomato flowers. The flowers on Atropa Belladonna are purple, and bell-shaped. As for the toxicity, Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna) berries are HIGHLY toxic in all forms, whereas Black Nightshade (Solanum Nigrum) can be toxic when they are green, and unripe, the level of toxicity can depend on the soil it is growing in, and the berries, when ripe are black, and are edible. The two plants are very commonly confused. There are several countries that eat Black Nightshade berries and foliage (after the foliage has been properly prepared) regularly. If a person does not know the definite differences between the two, it’s best not to ingest.

  2. Thank you for your very helpful article. I have been lovingly cultivating three of these plants from seed believing them to be peppers! Can you advise me please on how best to destroy them as the plants are mature now? Many thanks’

    Phillip

    • To be rid of any weed, you want to remove as much of the root as you can get; try not to leave any root behind. There is no substitute for hand removal of pernicious weeds. Never let weeds flower; if they have flowered and dropped seed, be on the lookout for them next season.

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