Vines perennial, herbaceous, unarmed, glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Leaves unequal paired, sometimes compound with 1 or 2 pairs of leaflets proximal to main leaflet; petiole 1-2 cm; leaf blade elliptic or ovate-hastate, 4-11 × 2-8 cm, sparsely pubescent, base hastate or with 1 or rarely 2 lobes, margin entire, apex acuminate. Inflorescences extra-axillary, lax, open, many-flowered panicles; peduncle 1-3 cm, branched. Pedicel 5-12 mm, sparsely pubescent. Calyx 1.5-2 × 2-3 mm; lobes deltate, sparsely pubescent. Corolla purple, usually with a yellow eye, 5-8 mm; lobes elliptic-lanceolate, ca. 5 mm. Filaments ca. 0.5 mm; anthers connate, 2-3.5 mm. Style slender, ca. 5.5 mm. Berry red, globose or ovoid, 6-8 mm in diam. Seeds discoid, 1.5-2 mm in diam. Fl. summer, fr. autumn.
Herbaceous or woody vine, above ground stems trailing to 8-10 m long and with spreading or creeping underground stems. Stems very rarely glabrous, more often pubescent with simple uniseriate or dendritic trichomes with short branches, or a mixture of the two types, these often tangled, 4-8-celled, to 1.5 mm long, usually white, pubescence density extremely variable; new growth usually white pubescent. Bark of older stems grey to yellowish grey.
Sympodial units plurifoliate.
Leaves simple to ternately pinnatifid, extremely variable in shape and size, even along a single stem, 2.5-7 cm long, 1.2-6 cm wide, elliptic or ovate to cordate in outline, membraneous, the upper surfaces glabrous to moderately pubescent with simple uniseriate or dendritic trichomes to 1.5 mm long on the veins and lamina, the lower surfaces sparsely to densely pubescent with trichomes like those of the upper surfaces, but usually denser; primary veins 6-9 pairs, usually pubescent; base truncate or cordate; margins entire or the leaves lobed, the lobes most commonly 2, rarely more, basal, narrowing near the sinuses; apex acute to acuminate; petiole 0.5-2 (+) cm long, pubescent like the stems.
Inflorescences terminal or lateral, not leaf-opposed, (1-)4-15 cm long, many times branched, with up to 40 flowers, only a few open at a time, glabrous to moderately pubescent, the rachis often purplish in hue; peduncle (0.5-)1-7 cm long; pedicels 6-12 mm long at anthesis, ca. 1 mm in diameter, slender, spreading, often purplish green, glabrous to sparsely pubescent with simple unieriate or more rarely dendritic trichomes to 0.5 mm long, articulate at the base in a small sleeve leaving a prominent swollen peg on the axis; pedicel scars irregularly spaced 1-5 (-10) mm apart, the axis zig-zag. Buds turbinate, the corolla long-exserted from the calyx tube before anthesis.
Flowers all perfect, 5-merous. Calyx tube 1-1.5 mm long, broadly conical, the lobes < 0.5 mm long, broadly triangular, glabrous or pubescent with uniseriate white trichomes, the apex pointed, the margins papillate. Corolla 1.5-2 cm in diameter, purple, violet or white, with green and white shiny spots at each lobe base, deeply stellate, lobed ¾ of the way to the base, the lobes 6-8 mm long, 2.5-3 mm wide, strongly reflexed at anthesis,glabrous or minutely papillate on tips and margins, occasionally densely pubescent with simple uniseriate trichomes abaxially, glabrous adaxially. Filament tube minute, the free portion of the filaments to 0.5 mm long, glabrous; anthers 4.5-6 mm long, ca. 1 mm wide, fused into a single column and tightly connivent, poricidal at the tips, the pores not lengthening to slits with age. Ovary glabrous; style 5-9 mm long, glabrous; stigma minutely capitate, the surface papillose.
Fruit a globose to ellipsoid berry, 0.6-1.1 cm long, 0.6-1.5 cm wide, bright red when ripe, the pericarp thin and shiny; fruiting pedicels to 1.3 cm long, 1-1.5 mm in diameter, not markedly woody, spreading.
Seeds >30 per berry, ca. 3 mm long, ca. 2 mm wide, flattened reniform, pale yellow or tan, the surfaces minutely pitted, the cells of the testa pentagonal.
"Rhizomatous perennial, shrubby below, climbing or scrambling to 1–3 m, moderately short-hairy to glabrous; lvs petiolate, some simple and with rather broadly ovate-subcordate blade 2.5–8 × 1.5–5 cm, others with a pair of smaller basal lobes or lfls; peduncles 1.5–4 cm, 10–25-fld, the infl 3–8 cm wide, jointed, bractless, often subdichotomously branched; cor light blue or violet, the lobes 5–9 mm (each with 2 shiny green basal spots), soon reflexed; anthers conspicuous, yellow; fr poisonous, bright red, 8–11 mm; 2n=24, 48, 72. Thickets, clearings, and open woods, often in moist soil; native of Eurasia, naturalized throughout our range."
Solanum dulcamara is widely distributed across Eurasia and northern North America, where it is also common; sea level to ca. 2000 m. The North American populations are thought to be introductions, but it is possible that the species has a truly circumboreal distribution. Solanum dulcamara is a weedy species and grows in a wide variety of temperate habitats, often associated with water and open places with abundant light. Although somewhat woody, it rarely reaches into the canopy but is more often found in thickets and sprawling in other low vegetation.
Least Concern (LC); EOO >100,000 km2 (LC) and AOO >10,000 km2 (LC). See Moat (2007) for explanation of measurements.Solanum dulcamara has a circumboreal distribution and is very common so it is not of conservation concern. Peripheral populations such as those in eastern Russia, however, may harbour interesting genetic variation (see Knapp 2011).