Solanaceae, the nightshade family.
Plant: Herbaceous to woody vine to 10', with alternate lobed leaves and loose clusters of yellow-centered purple flowers. Perennial.
Flowers: Purple, with five-lobed corolla, beaked yellow center, 3/8", in loose, hanging clusters (cymes).
Leaves: Alternate, with basal lobes and smooth margins, to 3".
Fruit: Smooth, shiny berries, initially green, and becoming bright red when fully ripe
Habitat: Clearings, thickets, border areas.
Introduced from Europe,
this plant is sometimes called deadly nightshade. It is not deadly, but
the leaves and unripe berries contain the toxic alkaloid solanine.
This compound seems considerably reduced in the ripe berries, but it
is probably not a good idea to eat them.
The ripe berries of some of the black-fruited nightshades
e.g. S. nigrum are eaten by some people without ill
effect, though others may be sensitive.
The famous deadly nightshade of stories is another European plant
Atropa belladona) in the same family. It contains atropine and
other alkaloids and really is deadly.
Where to find it:
Scattered along low, sunny borders and near buildings in the park.
One patch is adjacent to the weedy slough near the entrance.