Eastern black nightshade Solanum ptycanthum Dun.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
Life cycle: Annual
Native status: Native to North America
Habitat: Crop fields, gardens, nursery crops.
General description: Erect, branched annual reaching heights of 2 ft. Stems are round, smooth or partially hairy. Leaves are alternate, smooth or partially hairy, triangular to ovate with entire or irregular teeth. Leaves often with holes due to flea beetle feeding. Flowers occur in clusters of 5-7; small, white with yellow anthers. Fruit are black, glossy berries.
Key ID traits: Triangular leaves with irregular spaced teeth, frequently with numerous holes. Clusters of star-shaped flowers developing into black berries.
Similar species: Black nightshade is very similar to eastern black nightshade, but black nightshape is most common in western states whereas eastern black nightshade is found east of the Rocky Mountains.
Miscellaneous: Eastern black nightshade, like many members of the Solanaceae family, contains alkaloids. Although toxic, problems associated with consumption of the weed are relatively rare. Grazing animals avoid the plant if other feed is available. Eastern black nightshade was a major problem in soybean in the 1970s and 80s. Although not very competitive, the berries are the same size as soybean and thus difficult to separate from grain. Also, the ripe berries would clog the sieves on combines and shut down harvest. A popular herbicide at the time was advertised for its ability to 'end the nightshade nightmare'.