Nightshade (Ang. Sax. niht-scada), a name applied to several plants, but especially to solarium nigrum, the common or black nightshade. This is a much-branched, spreading annual herb, 1 to 2 ft. high, with angled stems, and stalked, ovate leaves, which have coarse angular teeth; the small white flowers are in lateral and umbel-like clusters, and succeeded by globular berries, green at first, but black when ripe; it blooms from July to September, and may usually be found with flowers and ripe fruit upon the same plant. This homely introduced weed is quite common in fields in the older parts of the country, and often met with in the shady places around dwellings and in waste grounds near villages. It is so readily exterminated that it can hardly rank as a troublesome weed. The plant has a bad reputation, though the evidence as to its poisonous qualities is very conflicting; it is stated that children have died soon after eating the berries with all the symptoms of narcotic poisoning, while on the other hand the berries are said to be used in some countries as food. It is possible that this difference may be due to soil and climate, as the plant varies so much in the color of its berries and other characters that it has been described under some 40 different names.
The dried foliage seems to act upon the secretions, and in doses of one or two grains has been used for diseases of the skin. - The alkaloid solania or solanine was first discovered in this plant, but was afterward found in the foliage of other species of solanum, including the potato (S. tuberosum). A grain of this alkaloid killed a rabbit in six hours. The plant is of a sufficiently suspicious character to make its extermination desirable. - Deadly nightshade is atropa belladonna. (See Belladonna.) Climbing or woody nightshade, or bittersweet, is solanum dulcamara. (See Solanum.) Enchanter's nightshade is Circaia Lutetiana, which, though bearing the name of Circe, and formerly used in the mysteries of witchcraft, is a very innocent plant of the evening primrose family. Three-leaved nightshade is one of the common names for species of the genus trillium. (See Trillium).
Common Nightshade (Solanum nigrum).