Isles of Scilly Wildflower Of The Week - Bittersweet

Isles of Scilly Wildflower Of The Week - Bittersweet.

Isles of Scilly Wildflower Of The Week - Bittersweet.

This week's Isles of Scilly Wildflower Of The Week was Bittersweet - Solanum Dulcamara. 

Bittersweet is found on all the inhabited islands and the larger uninhabited islands.

It has pointed oval leaves which are often lobed at the base. Bittersweet is a perennial and as a clambering sort of plant can grow quite tall. The flowers are fabulous. Five dark purple pointed petals curl back from a bright yellow cone of yellow anthers. The poisonous berries turn from green to yellow to orange to red. 

Another common name is Woody nightshade as it likes damp and shady areas. There is a different version that grows on shingle and rocky beaches which is more fleshy and grows along the ground.

The botanical name, Solanum dulcamara, refers to the toxic alkaloid it contains and then may be something to do with the sun, the flowers do follow the sun, or to soothe, or to belong to the soil. Dulcamara means bittersweet. If the roots are chewed the taste goes from bitter to sweet. 

Bittersweet is a member of the nightshade family. The berries are poisonous. Livestock shouldn't eat it. The berries look like tiny tomatoes when ripe. Tomatoes are close relations. This makes the Bittersweet berries dangerous to children and the uninformed forager. Some birds can eat it without harm and this disperses its seeds. This seems to be a bit of confusion about how dangerous it is. It seems that you have to eat a quantity for it to be fatal. A suggestion is that 10 berries can cause an adult death in a very unpleasant way.

Bittersweet has been used in herbal medicine. The juice in mediaeval times was thought to be good for those who had fallen from high places. Extracts are in modern medicine for the treatment of eczema and ringworm. 

You can listen to Liz's Wildflower Of The Week below and Liz will have a brand new Wildflower for you next Wednesday at 10:30am.