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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.

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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 - June 13, 2011

From: Morgan Hill, CA
Region: California
Topic: Vines
Title: Problems with non-native Potato vine from Morgan Hill CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Greetings from Morgan Hill. CA. I have moved into a home that has a fairly mature (10 years +/-) Potato Tree which has some blue/purple flowers but very few new leaves, it looks almost barren. It gets 8 hrs sunlight, regular watering (in lawn) and good soil. Everything else in the yard is growing great, But this poor tree looks sad. Small birds are using it to roost near a bird feeder. Maybe eating new buds? Thanks,

ANSWER:

We had to take your word on it that there was such a thing, as we had never heard of it. Turns out it is a Chilean Potato Vine, or Blue Potato Vine, as described in this article. We are assuming that is what you are talking about.

Actually, it appears there are two, both in the Solanum, genus, related to potatoes. One, Solanum macranthum is native to Brazil; the other, Solanum crispum, is the Chilean plant.

Obviously, both are tropicals and non-native to North America. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plants are being grown.

We found one more article on Solanum macranthum, with some growing and care information, but nothing about the problem you mention. Since it is not in our Native Plant Database, and also a tropical that probably wouldn't grow in Texas, so we could maybe find someone with experience with it, we are suggesting you contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Office for Santa Clara County.

 

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