The more astute of you may well have recognised the plant in yesterdays ‘Wordless Wdnesday’ post. It was Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).
Some of you may be wondering why I would intentionally keep a dangerous plant. Well, lets be honest, in nature many plants are deadly to some while completely palatable to others. Look at Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) for a good example, another native species to the UK and although poisonous to cattle and horses it is a real benefit to bees, wasps, butterflies and a whole host of other native insects who depend on it for food.
Not only that but your garden may already be filled with potentially dangerous plants and you won’t even know it!
So, while not as bad a threat as Deadly Nightshade, Bittersweet Nightshade is still poisonous to humans but is a source of pollen and nectar (Not from flowers) for insects and the berries are a welcome food source later on in the year for many native UK birds, Robins and Blackbirds for example, and so I will be keeping at least one plant and allow it to spread over the fence.
Not only that but this plant has a very interesting action that may well be something I’d love to watch. It produces a nectar rich sap when attacked. This then attracts ants to defend the plant. Much like the nectaries on a Cherry tree, except the nectar is extruded directly from the leaf rather than from a node or gland so the ants are directed straight to the feeding attacker.
This plants also attracts ladybugs. This may be very helpful in naturally dealing with the aphids on my Rose that the Nightshade is growing behind. Come for a drink, stay for the food! B-)
Obviously I won’t allow a self-seeds to settle near the house, but having ants in the garden is more often a boon rather than a blight as long as they don’t over populate. The most important thing in nature is balance!