Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
2 ratings

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

Balancing bloom in beds in Kents Store VA
May 26, 2010 - Our beds along a walkway in rural Central VA have replanted themselves - oenethera speciosa and dwarf yarrow have abandoned the north bed and are flourishing in the south bed. Sedums, lavender and can...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for shady acreage in Paige, TX
February 10, 2009 - My family recently bought property in Paige, TX. We thinned out the dense vegetation leaving pines and some oak and juniper. The ground is now bare sand throughout much of the property, except for th...
view the full question and answer

Seep Muhly in limited sunlight.
July 01, 2015 - Can Seep Muhly withstand just 3 or 4 hours of direct sunlight in an urban setting?
view the full question and answer

Fast growing shade trees safe for livestock in pasture in Nashville GA
May 13, 2010 - I would like a list of fast growing shade trees that are safe for cows and horses in a pasture.
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant privacy fence for shade in Hill Country
April 28, 2009 - I am looking for a shrub to plant along a privacy fence that gets 8+ feet tall, fast growing, preferably native, deer resistant, and can tolerate mostly shade. I reside in the Hill Country area. Tha...
view the full question and answer

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