Common Name
Nightshade, black nightshade, deadly nightshade.
Botanic Name
Solanum nigrum L.
Plant Family
Prefers disturbed soils, growing along roadsides, fences, and edges of cultivated fields.
Animals Affected
Cattle, sheep, horses
Toxic Principle
Steroidal alkaloids such as solanine have atropine-like effects on the nervous system inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase. Some nightshades also contain irritants such as saponins that cause salivation and diarrhea. Nightshades may also accumulate toxic levels of nitrate.
A hairless, spineless, erect, or trailing, branched annual plant with simple, ovate to lanceolate sinuate-toothed leaves. The flowers have 5 white petals arranged in a 6-10 mm star. The flower clusters of arise from a stalk that is situated between leaf nodes. The smooth, round, 5-10 mm fruits are initially green, turning black when ripe. The green fruits are toxic, but the ripe, black fruits are edible. S. americanum (huckleberry) is very similar in appearance, and is arguably a variety of S. nigrum.
Excess salivation, colic, diarrhea.
Muscle tremors and weakness.
Supportive therapy including intravenous fluids and electrolytes, intestinal protectants. Physostigmine may be tried cautiously to reverse some of the atropine-like effects.
Cardiovascular system
Slow heart rate, decreased cardiac output, shock, coma, and death
Respiratory System
Labored breathing
Nervous System
Depression, drowsiness, muscle tremors, incoordination.
Renal System
Kidney failure.
Ocular System
Dilated pupils
Signs of an atropine-like poisoning.
Special Notes
Cooking destroys the toxic alkaloids in members of the nightshade family. Other members of the night shade family including potatos amd tomatos, hairy nightshade (Solanum sarrachoides, cut leaf nightshade(Solanum triflorum),and silverleaf nightshade(S. elaeagnifolium) are toxic in the green state. Cattle can tolerate nightshades better than horses.
Nightshade with ripe berries.
hairy nightshade (S.sarrachoides)
cutleaf nightshade (S.triflorum)
bitter nightshade (S.dulcamara)
silverleaf nightshade(S.elaeagnifolium)