Eastern black nightshade

Encyclopedia Article

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'.

Cotyledons and first leaves are ovate shaped.  Underside of leaves are often purple.


Leaves on larger plants often triangular in shaped with irregularly toothed margin.


Flowers occur in clusters of 5 to 7 and have five pointed white petals.

ripe berries are black and 0.3 to 0.4 inches in diameter
Berries are dark purple/black when ripe.

Foliage of eastern black nightshade, and other members of the Solanaceae family, often have holes due to feeding by flea beetles. This is a helpful trait in identifying members of this family.