Although they both have black berries and share the nightshade name, solanum nigrum is distinct from Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade) in many ways. Like Henbane, it is said to have originated in Eurasia, eventually being spread to the Americas. Black nightshade’s flowers appear as white stars with large yellow anthers. The plant has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times to treat ailments such as rheumatism, liver and skin disease and gout. The primary alkaloid in this species is called solanine, which is also found in tomato leaves and potato plants. It happens to be a natural pesticide as well. Although not as toxic as belladonna, solanum nigrum is still very poisonous and can result in many of the same symptoms if ingested. The toxicity of the plant is said to vary, with the highest concentrations being found in the early fall. Some reports suggest that the black berries have a low enough solanine content to be eaten by adults, and there are reports of boiled leaves being eaten by various peoples. The boiling is said to remove the toxins, while other methods of cooking would not.
Growing Information: Like those of many other nightshades, these seeds have germination inhibitors in its seeds to make sure that all the seeds do not germinate at once in the event that unfavorable conditions should arise afterwards. Seeds should be cold stratified in the fridge for two weeks before sowing. Soaking them in water that is changed regularly during this period will help leach off the germination inhibitors. As an alternative, they may be placed in a moist paper towel in a zipper baggie while in the fridge. If sowing outdoors, sowing in December will provide a natural cold stratification. Pretreatment with gibberellic acid will also improve and even out germination if available. Afterwards, sow them in pots in a well-draining sandy soil and keep them at about 80-90 degrees. Transplant the seedlings at two inches to a shady outdoor location. Damp conditions are favorable.
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WARNING: Despite this plant?s beauty, this plant contains compounds that are poisonous if ingested. Do not ingest for any reason and keep away from curious pets and children. Do not attempt medicinal use unless under the direction and care of a physician.