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Thursday - October 01, 2009

From: Brewerton, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Should Solanum eleagnifolium, silverleaf nightshade, be removed from yard
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Upstate NY. I'm quite sure, after checking many sites/pictures, that I have a couple specimens of Silver Leaf Night Shade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) growing in the "wild" portion of my side yard. I've read that it's poisonous, and considered a noxious weed in the western states, but I'm not sure whether or not to remove it. My general policy has been to leave native plants unmolested, but there appears to be some question as to whether or not it's native to North America.. or South. It has also been given a very low rating Food, etc value in the US plant database. Should I pull out this plant?

ANSWER:

Upstate New York seems to be a bit out of range for Solanum eleagnifolium (silverleaf nightshade) according to the USDA Plants Database distribution map, but I suppose not an impossibility.  S. carolinense (Carolina horsenettle) does occur in Onondaga County, New York but should be easily distinguished from S. eleagnifolium (see below) by the leaf shape.  Solanum physalifolium (hairy nightshade), a South American native, does occur near Onondaga County and looks a bit like S. eleagnifolium.  If you would like for us to confirm the identify of the species, please send us photos and we will try our best to do so.  Visit Mr. Smarty Plants' Plant Identification page to read instructions for submitting photos.

Whichever one it is, however, it is really pretty much a matter of your choice whether to remove or not.  Many people would say that all of these are ugly weeds, but one person's weed is another person's wildflower.  I happen to think they are rather pretty myself.  Cornell University's Plants Poisonous to Livestock database lists the leaves and immature fruit of all species of Solanum as toxic.  This shouldn't necessarily be a problem for you unless you have small children or animals that might eat the leaves or the immature fruit.  Of the three, the USDA says that only S. physalifolium is an introduced species so I would recommend removing it, if that is what you have.

Photos of S. elaeagnifolium:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos of S. carolinense:

 

 

 

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