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

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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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

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