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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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Monday - September 03, 2012

From: Jacksonville, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification, Edible Plants
Title: Identity of a plant in Florida with red fruit like a small tomato
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

It looks like a small tomato but it isn't. It has a bunch of flakey seeds on the inside, which are a light brown in color. The outside is red, and I think it starts out growing green and also white. The inside is white. It has thorns on the stem. It is also hard. It has no smell, and of course I'm not going to taste it incase it's posionous. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Lycium carolinianum (Carolina wolfberry) has thorny branches and red berries that look like small tomatoes.  Here are more photos and information from Plant Creations.  They are edible according to our species page, Plant Creations and Eat the Weeds.  You were wise not to sample them, however, since wolfberries are in the same plant family (Family Solanaceae-Potato Family) that includes some poisonous species—e.g., Solanum americanum (American nightshade).

If this doesn't happen to be the plant you described, you should photograph it and then visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Carolina wolfberry
Lycium carolinianum

Carolina wolfberry
Lycium carolinianum

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