Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - June 14, 2011

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Silverleaf Nightshade, Happy in El Paso Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

Trying to identify a small wildflower all over in our El Paso neighborhood. Lavender bloom, five pointed petals, Star pattern inside, five bright yellow pistols. Beautiful. Thanks!

ANSWER:

What you are probably seeing is Solanum elaeagnifolium (Silverleaf nightshade) a common plant you would see in your area. You have made it easily to identify with your clues of five petaled lavender flowers with bright yellow stamen. In the Solanaceae or potato family, five petals fusing to form the flower are a common trait and nightshade has this distinctive coloring of purple and yellow. 

In El Paso and throughout the Southwest there is a long history with nightshade in the making of cheese, specifically Asadero cheese. The crushed seeds from the berries helps to curdle milk. These berries are poisonous to people as well as livestock so don't attempt any cheese making yourself. It also produces solasodine, used in the manufacture of steroidal hormones. Medicinally it has been used for tooth aches, sore throats and even rattlesnake bites. 

Nightshade is a perennial. The roots are long, sometimes up to six feet, which is why you notice this plant in higher numbers than other flowering plants in times of drought. They also produce rhizomes which help to keep the number of plants plentiful once established. Silverleaf nightshade is considered a noxious weed throughout the Northwest. States in non-native regions where it has been introduced find it hard to eradicate. Nightshade is highly deer resistant, so for your area, it is not a bad little plant to have around. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Groundcover for part shade/shade in Oklahoma.
September 14, 2009 - I am looking for perennial ground covers for shade to part shade under red oaks in central Oklahoma. Soil condition is usually dry. Can you recommend some natives in addition to creeper for xeriscape?...
view the full question and answer

O.K. to grow grass under a live oak?
November 26, 2014 - Is it a bad idea to plant grass around a mature live oak? We have erosion issues and trying to keep mulch in the beds around the tree groves is a challenge, even with edging. Much of the native dirt...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen drought-tolerant screening plant for shade
May 13, 2010 - I am renting my place and looking for a screening, green all year, native plant or shrub. I plan to grow it in large planters along my street and to create privacy in my back yard. It has to be a non...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs, groundcovers, and grasses for shade in North Central Texas
March 19, 2010 - Updated (2009-10) information about shrubs / ground cover /grasses recommended for North Central Texas - Complete back yard re-landscaping under a lot of trees, shady areas, regular bermuda, St Augus...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for a dry slope in PA
May 23, 2013 - My side yard is a slope with rocky (a lot of small serpentine rocks) soil under white and black pine trees. I can grow lots of weeds :-) but would like to plant a low (0-3in) evergreen ground cover th...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.