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Notes on poisoning: black nightshade


General poisoning notes:

Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is a naturalized herb found scattered across southern Canada in waste places. This plant can be easily confused with eastern black nightshade, a native herb, which is more commonly found in its range in eastern Canada (see taxonomy and distributions in Ogg et al. 1981, Bassett and Munro 1985). Black nightshade contains toxic glycoalkaloids in the plant. The highest concentration is in the green immature berries. All kinds of animals can be poisoned after ingesting nightshade including cattle, sheep, poultry, and swine. Children have been poisoned and have died after ingesting unripe berries. The ripe berries cause reduced symptoms of mild abdominal pains, vomiting, and diarrhea (Cooper and Johnson 1984, Lampe and McCann 1985). Some Canadian garden catalogs sell seed for garden huckleberry (Solanum melanocerasum All.; also previously known as Solanum nigrum L. var. guineense L.). This plant has edible black fruits that can be cooked for use in pies, jams, and preserves. The plant may persist from seed for more than a year in gardens in warmer parts of Canada. There is no evidence that the ripe fruits are toxic. Other species of nightshade occur in Canada, and some may contain small amounts of toxins. Eastern black nightshade (Solanum ptycanthum Dun ex DC.) may contain small amounts of toxin in the green berries. Berries of hairy nightshade (Solanum sarrachoides Sendt.) have been tested as a teratogen in hamsters but the results were not statistically significant (Keeler et al .1990).

References:

Bassett, I. J., Munro, D. B. 1985. The biology of Canadian weeds. 67. Solanum ptycanthum Dun., S. nigrum L. and S. sarrachoides Sendt. Can. J. Plant Sci., 65: 401-414.

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Keeler, R. F., Baker, D. C., Gaffield, W. 1990. Spirosolane-containing Solanum species and induction of congenital craniofacial malformations. Toxicon, 28: 873-884.

Lampe, K. F., McCann, M. A. 1985. AMA Handbook of poisonous and injurious plants. American Medical Assoc. Chicago, Ill., USA. 432 pp.

Ogg, A. G., Rogers, B. S., Schilling, E. E. 1981. Characterization of black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) and related species in the United States. Weed Sci., 29: 27-32.

Reynard, G. B., Norton, J. B. 1942. Poisonous plants of Maryland in relation to livestock. Univ. MD. Agric. Exp. Stn. Bull., A10. 312 pp.

Nomenclature:

Scientific Name: Solanum nigrum L.

Vernacular name(s): black nightshade

Scientific family name: Solanaceae

Vernacular family name: nightshade

Go to ITIS*ca for more taxonomic information on: Solanum nigrum

References:

Agriculture Quebec. 1975. Noms des maladies des plantes du Canada/ Names of plant diseases in Canada. , Quebec City, Que., Canada. 288 pp.

Alex, J. F., Cayouette, R., Mulligan, G. A. 1980. Common and botanical names of weeds in Canada/Noms populaire et scientifiques des plantes nuisibles du Canada. Revised. Agric. Can. Publ., Ottawa, Ont., Canada. 132 pp.

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Scoggan, H. J. 1978, 1979. The flora of Canada. Nat. Mus. Nat. Sci. (Ottawa) Publ. Bot. 7(1)-7(4). 1711 pp.

Van Wijk, H. L. 1911. A dictionary of plant names. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands. 1444 pp.

Victorin, M. 1964. Flore Laurentienne. 2nd ed. Univ. Montreal, Montreal, Que., Canada. 952 pp.

Geographic Information

Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Quebec
Saskatchewan

References:

Bailey, L. H., Bailey, E. Z. 1976. Hortus third. Revised. MacMillan, New York, N.Y., USA. 1290 pp.

Boivin, B. 1966, 1967. Énumération des plantes du Canada. Provencheria 6. Nat. Can. (Que.) 93: 253-274; 371-437; 583-646; 989-1063. 94: 131-157; 471-528; 625-655.

Image or illustration

black nightshade:

Images: images.google.com

Notes on Poisonous plant parts:

All parts of the plant contain alkaloids, especially the green immature berries. The concentration increases in the leaves until plant maturity. The ripe black berries contain little alkaloidal content and can sometimes be eaten with no harmful effects(Cooper and Johnson 1984).

Toxic parts:

all parts
immature fruit
leaves

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Notes on Toxic plant chemicals:

Toxic glycoalkaloids, including solanine, solasodine, and chaconine are found in black nightshade, especially in the green immature berries. Nitrates can also accumulate in the plant material (Cooper and Johnson 1984).

Toxic plant chemicals:

chaconine
Image of chaconine

nitrate
solanine
Image of solanine

solasodine

Chemical diagram(s) are courtesy of Ruth McDiarmid, Biochemistry Technician, Kamloops Range Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Kamploops, British Columbia, Canada.

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Animals/Human Poisoning:

Note: When an animal is listed without additional information, the literature (as of 1993) contained no detailed explanation.

Cattle

General symptoms of poisoning:

breathing, labored
constipation
death
diarrhea
incoordination
muzzle, dry
pupil dilation
temperature, depressed

Notes on poisoning:

Symptoms of poisoning are similar to those for swine. Cattle can also develop edema from the lower jaw to the front of the legs (Cooper and Johnson 1984).

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Humans

General symptoms of poisoning:

abdominal pains
death
diarrhea
dizziness
temperature, elevated
unconsciousness
vomiting

Notes on poisoning:

Humans have been poisoned and have died (rarely) after ingesting usually green immature berries. Ripe, black berries have little toxin in them, although abdominal pains and vomiting could occur. Symptoms usually occur only after a latent period of several hours and may persist for several days. Symptoms resemble those of bacterial gastroenteritis and include headache, speech impairment, and unconsciousness (Cooper and Johnson 1984, Lampe and McCann 1985).

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Poultry

General symptoms of poisoning:

death

Notes on poisoning:

In one case in Maryland, over 300 pullets died when they were allowed to feed on a field overgrown with black nightshade (Reynard and Norton 1942).

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

Swine

General symptoms of poisoning:

breathing, rapid
death
incoordination
muscle spasms
temperature, depressed

Notes on poisoning:

Pigs have been poisoned after ingesting black nightshade. Symptoms included rapid pulse and respiration, pale mucous membranes, dilated pupils, depressed temperature, incoordination, and tremors (Cooper and Johnson 1984).

References:

Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.

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Date modified: 2009-09-01