Tuesday, August 13, 2013


We've all been taught at some point to be wary of wild berries.  Boy/Girl Scouts teach the basics of wildnerness caution.  Parents who are aware of such things do so as well.  But what if your nature experience is limited, never having becoming one with earth?  Despite the commercials showing Wild Berry Passion as the flavor of the moment, there's nothing flavorful about poison berries.

Several months ago, in glee, my wife and I planted grape vines purchased from a local discount grocery chain.  A few weeks ago, my wife spots grapes growing for the first time.  She becomes quite excited and shares a photo of the newly formed grape to her social media network.

While waiting for our little grapes to ripen, my wife noticed that these "grapes" looked funny.  She accidentally knocked a branch off and tried to save it by placing it in a glass in our kitchen.

Looking closely at the orbs, she searched online for immature grapes with nothing looking like these solid green balls.  Eventually, she realized that this plant is not part of the grapevine where she found it, but instead a part of a deadly poisonous weed called Nightshade.

It's "berries" are jambed full of tiny seeds, one plant can produce 80,000 seeds!  The seed pods and leaves are poisonous.  Some "herbal people" harvest them fort their  "medicinal" properties.  As we're not shamans, we've plucked out as many as we could after discovering their true identity.  They were growing next to the vines of our grape plants so hence my wife's confusion.  In fact, they were found next to our back door, around our rose bushes, by the coffin door and randomly throughout the perimeter of our backyard.

I curse the previous owner for being so lax with her yard maintenance:  free growing poison ivy/oak/sumac and poisionous nightshade should be against the law.  They all spread easily and, with a ripened nightshade looking like small berries in reds and dark blues (green, unrippened), they appeal to children.  With my little guy sticking whatever he can into his mouth to taste, you can imagine our fear with having him in our back yard.

Nightshade, specifically Black Nightshade, causes these symptoms:

Your mouth dries up and your pupils dilate.  You get diarrhea and vomiting along with obvious stomach pains.  Your pulse either sky rockets or plunges and some people go into shock.  Your breathing slows as well.  Next, you get a fever and start to hallucinate (hence the "medicinal" property). Your hands go numb, you get a headache; worse yet, some go paralyzed.  Oh, and your whole body sweats.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

Good news is, these plants are pulled out easily.  Their roots are shallow, wear gloves as a precaution, grab the base of the stem and pull it out.  It may even be better to place a plastic bag over it so that none of the seeds fall off.  Place the plant directly into a covered trash can to ensure the least amount of exposure to others and thrwart birds seeding the yard.  Thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.

I went a step further and warned my immediate neighbors.  They have a child and dogs.  And for my pet chicken owners, Nightshade seems to cause irritation in very small quantities but most chickens seem to know to stay away.  But, in large quantities, it can cause eventual death.