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All About Black Nightshade

What does nightshade remind you of? You’re probably thinking of poison, and that’s correct in some aspects! Many movies and books use Nightshade to depict death by poisoning. But, while Black Nightshade can cause slight poisoning, it isn’t as potent as other Nightshade varieties.

If you don’t mind this plant growing in your yard, it can offer some health benefits. However, it can also destroy your garden by introducing diseases and tangling itself in your plants.

Keep reading to learn more about this weed, how to get rid of it, and what benefits it might offer!

History of Black Nightshade

Black Nightshade, or Solanum nigrum, is native to Europe and Asia and is commonly referred to as European Black Nightshade. Other names for this Nightshade include Garden Nightshade, Common Nightshade, and Blackberry Nightshade.

The lines are a little blurry regarding when and how it got introduced to the United States. The plant was supposedly used to create things like poison arrows many years ago. And people may have used it in medicinal tonics and for cosmetic purposes due to its blue-purple tint.

There is also a type of Black Nightshade native to the Americas, called the American Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum). While it can look similar to the European variety and sits within the same family, they are not the same.

How to Identify Black Nightshade

black nightshade shrub berries and wide leaves. purple-black ball-shaped fruits, ripening on lush racemes

Black Nightshade grows in a shrub-like shape with multiple upright, tall stems. The leaves and stems are usually dark green and have an egg or teardrop shape. Sometimes you might notice a very light purple tint where the stem joints are. The stems and leaves also have little hairs, creating a fuzzy feel.

The plant will bloom from spring to fall, growing five-petaled white flowers. Berries will then replace the flowers, usually less than half an inch in diameter. They’ll start light green, then turn to black or dark purple when ripe. And unlike some other Nightshade varieties, these berries grow in small clusters.

Why Is Black Nightshade Considered a Weed?

Common Nightshade is an annual plant or, in some areas, a short-lived perennial. And it falls into the weed category due to its generally unwanted nature. It can grow and spread rapidly, sometimes taking over your plants. It can also bring diseases and pests, allowing them to spread and kill your plants.

Does Black Nightshade Cause Issues?

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum)  flowers /  Solanaceae annual grass.

This type of Nightshade can easily wipe out your garden or surrounding crops due to disease and pests. It can carry diseases like blight and pests like spider mites, beetles, and aphids.

Besides killing your beloved plants, it can be poisonous, especially to children and pets. The leaves and unripe berries are poisonous, while ripe berries are harmless. Its leaves and unripe berries contain solanine, a toxic compound in potatoes and plants in the Nightshade family.

If leaves and green berries get ingested in small amounts, stomach issues, and headaches are the most common problems. But, in high amounts, it can hinder breathing, affect your heart rate, make you dizzy, and even lead to death.

How Does Black Nightshade Spread?

Common Nightshade spreads through reseeding and traveling birds. It reseeds itself when flowers or berries fall to the ground. Birds also love to eat berries from this plant. So, they’ll often accidentally drop the seeds while eating them, or they will be in their droppings.

How To Get Rid of Black Nightshade

Getting rid of this type of Nightshade can be challenging, especially if you have a large infestation. So, you’ll need to act quickly with some of the following methods.

Natural Ways

Natural herbicides won’t usually affect this weed. So, your natural removal methods will require manual work.

Cut the Weed Down

A lawn mower is the quickest option if you choose to cut down this Black Nightshade variety. A weed wacker can do the trick if you don’t have a lawn mower. You’ll need to stay on top of any new growth you see.

Dig It Up

Another natural option is digging the weeds before the flowers and seeds appear. You’ll need a digging tool like a shovel or a hoe. This is the better option if you only have a small infestation of this weed. The goal is to dig up the root system to prevent regrowth.

Weed Killers

If manual removal isn’t an option, try using a glyphosate-based herbicide. Glyphosate is a general type of weed killer that kills almost all weeds. It essentially stops plant growth. Ensure you follow the directions of the herbicide you choose and saturate the weeds.

Does Black Nightshade Have Any Good Uses?

nightshade essential oil in glass jar with fresh nightshade (solanum nigrum inn) on wooden background

Black Nightshade does have some medicinal uses. Some claim that ripe berries can help create a tonic that treats muscle spasms, stomach issues, pain, and more.

The leaves and stems can also help as a topical medicine for skin infections and irritated, inflamed skin. But you should always talk to your doctor before trying these things out.


Is Black Nightshade poisonous to dogs?

Yes, this type of Nightshade can be very poisonous to dogs, especially if they eat unripe berries. The solanine inside the plant and unripe berries can cause extreme toxicity and sometimes lead to death.

Is Black Nightshade common?

This Nightshade is common, as you can find it in over half the United States and many other countries. You’ll usually find it in the woods, fields, and crops. And it can creep into your yard and gardens.

Can you touch Black Nightshade?

You can touch this variety of Nightshade without any consequences. It isn’t poisonous to the touch and doesn’t have spines that can harm you. Ingesting the plant is when it becomes a problem for your health.

Wrapping Up Black Nightshade

Black Nightshade typically has a bad reputation, as it bears toxic compounds, diseases, and pests. It might be best to eliminate it to protect your pets and children from toxicity.

However, this weed can also have great medicinal uses if used properly. So, consider keeping some before hitting it with a weed wacker or herbicides!

If you feel like you need to learn more about these pesky garden tenants, check out our weeds page to learn all about different weed varieties, treatment options, and surprising information.