Horse Nettle

Solanum carolinense

Horse nettle is a perennial native that is a member of the potato family of plants. You may recognize the flower and leaves as bearing some similarities to common garden vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. The flowers are star-shaped, white to purple in color, with 5 lobes.  A prominent yellow center contains a group of long anthers.

Horse nettle has spiny stems and leaves and is therefore sometimes called “Tred-softly”.  The 3-5 inch leaves are alternately arranged and irregularly lobed and toothed. And because it bears yellow tomato-like fruits that are very poisonous,  it is sometimes called Devil’s Tomato.

You will typically find horse nettle growing in waste places or along fences rows in pastures and fields.  They reach 2-3 feet in height and can be found throughout the growing season in the South. The ripened fruit persists long after the leaves have faded and are a common site in winter fields.

Related plants include Bittersweet Nightshade and Ground Cherry.

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