Deadly black nightshade is thriving in Britain because of the hot weather – and experts say we need to be wary of its poisonous, and potentially deadly, berries.
The round, black fruit can easily be mistaken for blueberries and has been found growing at toddler-height on road verges and park areas in towns.
The fruit of the black nightshade – or solanum nigrum – is highly toxic.
The deadly plant usually only grows in remote farmland but this year’s wet spring and hot summer has helped the dangerous weed grow in urban areas.
Botanists say if the berries are eaten when they’re unripe they contain 2 poisons – atropine and solanin – which can prove deadly.
Mum-of-1 Michelle Paine noticed the plant growing near her home in Penzance, Cornwall. She researched whether the juicy-looking berries were edible and was shocked to discover their toxicity.
“All it takes is for a toddler to reach out and pick a berry and there could be a very serious situation,” she told the Daily Mail.
“The berries look just like blueberries, which are my 2-year-old daughter’s favourite, and are about 2ft off the ground – a perfect height for youngsters.
Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society, confirmed that the weed was thriving because of the weather.
“I wouldn’t suggest that anyone eats the berries,” he said. “They look very similar to edible berries but, if someone were to eat them, it could potentially be dangerous.
“Fatalities have been recorded in literature, and farm animals have also been killed.”
Cornwall Council say it’s up to each individual local town authority to arrange for bushes and verges to be sprayed with particular herbicides to destroy dangerous plants.