Solanceae On A Sunshiny Day

So I was walking around this morning after breakfast with a friend; I told the volunteer coordinator I wouldn't make it to the Arboretum today because I'm going on an adventure with a coworker/friend in a few minutes, and I wouldn't have had time to get home, get ready, and leave in time had I volunteered.

But! While walking, I decided to start taking pictures of some of the Solanaceae weeds I have been noticing in the area. Mostly because I wanted to know which ones they were. I hadn't previously noticed any with berries, but today I spotted many immature fruits. Amy Stewart in "Wicked Plants" has this to say about such plants: "An unfamiliar plant that produces small, round fruit and has the general growth habit of a tomato or eggplant should be viewed with some caution." Pretty much the entire Solanaceae family (to which eggplant, tomato, potato, and peppers belong) is poisonous. Beware the gifts of Mother Nature!

Speaking of gifts of Mother Nature, here are a few I acquired at the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market. I don't usually get to go to it, volunteering as I do, but I bought some Mr. Stripey tomatoes, a Brandywine, some yellow one, two types of eggplant (unlabeled, so I don't know), and some green bell peppers. I am planning a nice lasagna. At the Dupont market tomorrow, I want to get hot peppers and some cheese, and with the basil from my CSA, I think I'll be set for a nice crock pot creation!

This picture, although of good yummy things, reminds me of the TV show Killer Tomatoes. The fruit look large, intimidating, and a bit angry--the perfect shot for such a family of poisonous antisocial plants!

What disease is this potted tomato plant suffering from? Late blight? This yard is on the corner of Brown Street and Lamont, I think, across from that convenience/liquor store, just a few blocks from my apartment.

This horse nettle, Solanum carolinense, is at the end of Mount Pleasant Street, where I had sown tons of sunflowers and sugar snap peas. Now, there are just canna lilies and horse nettle. I have seen S. carolinense all over DC recently, but I didn't ID it until today. Amy Stewart says it's not a true nettle (actually, she doesn't say that, she said the opposite: True nettles are in the Urticaria family, and since this is in the Solanaceae family, it's not a true nettle). According to the Wikipedia, it is also called "apple of Sodom," I think because of the thorns it has everywhere. I think that is, um, an odd name. Besides, the thorns aren't large enough to be useful for a sodomite.

It is pretty easy to distinguish nightshade/tomato/etc.-like plants on the basis of their flowers. These are pretty tiny--about half of an inch across?

The fruit of these horse nettles are pretty attractive--I love the stripes (like on Mr. Stripey!). I can see why people would attempt to eat these. Some information I found online suggested that maybe the ripe fruit is less poisonous, but I wouldn't chance it.

You can see the thorns very well in this photo--they are on the stem, the petiole, and the major veins in the leaves. I would not want to have to pull this sucker up!

So, I have here American nightshade, Solanum americanum. This was in a weedy front yard on Brown Street, about a block from my apartment. This is not the nightshade, which is Atropa belladonna. A. belladonna is native to places such as Europe and North Africa, whereas S. americanum is native to places such as, well, the Americas. It doesn't seem to be a poisonous as the rest of its family, but that doesn't mean it won't make a person uncomfortable after eating some berries!

The flowers on S. americanum are tinnnyy!! Like, one-third of an inch. Minuscule.

The berries have a nice granite/marble type pattern on them, but I think they turn black when fully ripe--I will have to keep an eye out for it in a week or so. 7 August Update: They are black.

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One Response to Solanceae On A Sunshiny Day

  1. Very strange, its considered a native vegetable here as the local call it - (Terung pipit) meaning sparrow's brinjal.
    Its used to be cooked with lentil beans and potatoes. Or also eaten as salad with dressing.

    You can google (Terung Pipit) and find a lot of information about this plant in Malaysia.
    Also check this out:

    And yes, there are thorns on the leaf ribs and the stalk and very intimidating.



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