En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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


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!


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

Native alternatives for Japanese maple
September 05, 2007 - Hi, I am a landscaper trying to create a landscape in a shaded area with no sun. The person likes a Acer palmatum, but I am not sure it will grow there. We live in South Lake Tahoe. So I know of some ...
view the full question and answer

An evergreen, deer-resistant shrub for Memphis
July 24, 2013 - I need an evergreen, deep to partial shade, deer resistant shrub or tree. Does such a plant exist?
view the full question and answer

Container plant in difficult sun exposure from Leander TX
June 06, 2014 - HELP!!!! I have a large Mexican terracotta pot on my front porch. This awkward area is facing westward, so receives the full dose of Texas sun after about 3 pm onward. Now here's the catch; my fr...
view the full question and answer

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade in Abilene TX
October 29, 2011 - I live in Abilene, Texas. I am trying to find the best plants to fill in an area on the North side of my home, which gets absolutely no sun. The area is sprinklered, and stays fairly moist. I really d...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center