Solanum dulcamara, Solanaceae, Bittersweet, Bittersweet nightshade, Bitter Nightshade, Blue Bindweed, Amara Dulcis, Climbing Nightshade, Fellenwort, Felonwood, Poisonberry, Poisonflower, Scarlet Berry, Snakeberry, Trailing Bittersweet, Trailing Nightshade, Violet Bloom, Woody Nightshade, flowers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is Solanum dulcamara, Woody Nightshade, a pretty plant that can commonly be seen scrambling through hedgerows. I found the specimen pictured below when I was preparing the ground for planting the Rosa rugosa hedge, and I decided to leave it to scramble through the new planting when it matures. I thought I would keep it chopped back until it had a support to wind around, but of course I didn’t and now it has rather swamped one end of my rose hedge. In future I will let the hedge develop before letting climbers do their thing! Woody Nightshade sports flowers with deep blue, minute, petals that fold backwards away from bright yellow anthers towards the stem. These appear in midsummer and are followed by green berries that eventually turn a vivid shade of red.
This particular tree has always caught my notice. It was obviously once host to some magnificent ivy that was killed by cutting a large chunk of its ‘trunk’ (it nearly is!) near the base. The fabulously snaking dead roots still cover the bark of the tree, and some fresh young ivy is now returning to follow the original path upwards. Trees and ivy are a combination that really seems to divide opinion. Some people feel that the ivy destroys the host tree, smothering it and making it compete for light and nutrients. Others point out that a strong healthy tree should be able to cope with ivy climbing up it, that it forms a valuable shelter and food source for wildlife, and plays an important role in the development of woodland habitat. I think a good way of managing ivy is to allow it to grow up the tree trunk to a certain point, and prevent it from going into the branches. In a gardening situation, it of course depends on taste. If you have a tree with eg. distinctive bark acting as a focal point you may not want anything to detract from that. I myself have pruned ivy in the illustrated way when I was volunteering in a project to renovate some hazel coppice. The woodland under renovation had not been managed for some time, so the conservation group taking charge of the site wanted the freshly pruned hazel to get growing, and other plants, including the ivy, could come back in gradually.