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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 24, 2012

From: Williamsville, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identity of plant with purple flower and tomato-like fruit
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Along the Lake Erie shoreline in Buffalo there is a summer blooming plant with a purple flower and hard flattened tomato like fruit, diameter of a quarter. It has pretty small green leaves with fine ridges/teeth. We have photos that we'll try to attach. Thanks for your help.


This sounds like the North American native, Solanum carolinense (Carolina horse-nettle).  Here are more photos and information from Connecticut Wildflowers, Missouri Plants and from the USDA Plants Database.  On the USDA Plants Database, if you click on New York, you can see the county distribution for the state.

A non-native introduced species, Solanum dulcamara (Climbing nightshade), is also a possibility.  Here are more photos and information from Missouri Plants.

As you learned, you can't attach photos to your question on Mr. Smarty Plants.  We can no longer accept photos for identification because we were completely overwhelmed with requests and we do not have adequate staff or volunteers to try to identify all the requests we received. We do, however, have links to several plant identifcation forums on our Plant Identification page that will accept photos for identification.

Also, you can try a search in our Native Plant Database using the COMBINATION SEARCH option and entering "New York" in the Select State or Province box, "Herb" in the Habit (general appearance), and select "Purple" and "Violet" under Bloom Color.



From the Image Gallery

Carolina horse-nettle
Solanum carolinense

Carolina horse-nettle
Solanum carolinense

More Plant Identification Questions

Identity of a plant at UGA Trial Gardens 15 years ago
August 14, 2012 - Looking to identify a plant that was in UGA trial gardens about 15 years ago, large plant with purple flowers, fuzzy leaves like a lambs ear. Thought it started with a Thiobana or something like that
view the full question and answer

Plant ID in Flower Mound TX
June 23, 2009 - I have a large native tree in the back yard, leaves resembles a live oak, but evergreen,& small white flowers in the spring, very tall vase shaped tree. It had no acorns or berries.
view the full question and answer

Identifying Rhus lanceolata in Texas
April 28, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I think I've identified two small trees, 4 to 5 feet high at the back fence line and two in the front yard flower beds as prairie flameleaf sumac (or at least some kind of s...
view the full question and answer

ID for two flowers blooming in November in Buda TX
November 29, 2015 - two different plants growing in my wild area. 1. springs of tiny yellow flowers atop almost foot tall woody stem. 2. Clump of tiny near white bud like flowers. clump about 6 to 8 inches across on ...
view the full question and answer

What is the plant called wingspan?
September 21, 2014 - I have a lot of environmental allergies and saw a positive result for "wingspan" yet I cannot find ANY information online about that particular plant. I was told it's "tumbleweed" by the medical ...
view the full question and answer

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