This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
This genus includes more than half of the species belonging to the order. They are rare in temperate climates, but abound in the tropics and especially in tropical America. They vary from small annuals to trees of considerable size. Leaves various. Flowers in terminal or extra-axillary cymes. Corolla rotate or campanulate. Stamens 5; anthers large, connivent, opening by terminal pores. Fruit a many-seeded berry. The derivation of the name has not been satisfactorily explained. There are two species found in this country, at least in the southern portion. S, Dulcamara, Bitter Sweet, a perennial of trailing or climbing habit with long flexuous stems, ovate-cordate often lobed leaves, and large clusters of purple flowers with yellow conspicuous anthers succeeded by scarlet berries. There is a variety of this with variegated foliage. S. nigrum is neither so common nor so showy a plant. It is an erect annual bearing small white flowers followed by black, yellow or red berries.
Although there are no hardy ornamental species in cultivation, there are many species employed for Summer decoration in the flower-garden. These species are so numerous that imperfect descriptions are of little service; but as the scope of our work will not admit of space for complete differential descriptions, we must content ourselves with a superficial notice of a few of those in general cultivation.
S. giganteum, a large prickly shrub from the Cape of Good Hope, attaining a height of 20 feet. Leaves large, ovate, covered with a whitish pubescence. Flowers numerous, small, violet. - S. marginatum, a very handsome shrubby species about 6 feet high, from Abyssinia. Leaves prickly, cordate, clothed with a white indumentum. Flowers large, white with a purple centre. - S. laciniatum, syn. S. aviculare, a succulent glabrous species with large pinnatifid leaves and blue flowers, a native of New Zealand. - S. robustum, a Brazilian species with decurrent spiny very large leaves which are clothed with a white or rufous pubescence. - S. verbascifolium, a tall unarmed species from India and Australia, with large ovate leaves densely clothed with a soft velvety tomentum. - S. betaceum, a splendid species from 6 to 12 feet high with large cordate shining leaves and white flowers. Besides these we may enumerate: S. crinitum, S. auriculatum, S. aculea-tissimum, S. glaucophyllum, S. callicarpum, S. galeatum, and S. macranthum. Cultivators have recently devoted some attention to these plants, and they have already raised many fine hybrid varieties.