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Solanum elaeagnifolium (Silverleaf nightshade)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Solanum elaeagnifolium

Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav.

Silverleaf Nightshade, Silver-leaf Nightshade, White Horse Nettle, Trompillo, Tomato Weed, Bull Nettle

Solanaceae (Potato Family)


USDA Symbol: soel

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I), PR (N)

There are several species of horse nettle, all of which have star-shaped blossoms with prominent petals, flat or turned backward, and yellow stamens. Almost all of them are prickly. Flowers of the various species are blue, purple, yellow, or white. White Horse Nettle gets its name from its covering of silvery hairs, among which are the nettle-like prickles. It grows 1-3 feet tall. The leaves are 2-4 inches long, with wavy edges. Flowers are violet-purple or white, about 3/4 inch across, with 5 petal-like lobes that are joined at the base, forming a triangular shape at the tip of each lobe. All of them have the prominent, bright yellow stamens that distinguish all the horse nettles. The yellow fruits resemble small tomatoes and remain on the plant for months. They are said to be poisonous.

The lavender, star-shaped flowers with yellow centers are beautifully set off by the silvery foliage, and large patches of the plant in full bloom are striking. However, the plant is an aggressive, poisonous weed, spreading steadily from deep rootstocks; in a few states it is classified as a noxious weed.

The genus name, from the Latin solamen ("quieting"), alludes to the narcotic properties of many species. This species is also known as Bullnettle.


From the Image Gallery

37 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Fruit: Yellow, almost black when ripe.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Purple , Violet
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , FL , GA , HI , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NE , NM , NV , OH , OK , OR , SC , TN , TX , UT , WA
Native Distribution: Across southern half of United States and in northern Mexico; in West, north to Washington, Idaho, Colorado, and Nebraska.
Native Habitat: Prairie, Plains, Meadows, Pastures, Savannas

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Soil Description: Clay Loam, Medium Loam, Sandy Loam, Sandy.
Conditions Comments: Considered "weedy" by some due to its common appearance in the landscape and ability to reseed, Silver-leaf Nightshade is non-the-less an attractive plant. Once established, it needs no supplemental watering to survive, although extra water may increase blooming. Yellow fruit are 3/4" wide with green stripes and look good in flower arrangements but are toxic if eaten.


Use Ornamental: Wildflower meadow
Use Medicinal: Used for rattlesnake bite - root chewed by medicine man, who then sucks on the wound to remove venom, then more root is chewed and applied to swollen area. (Steiner) Southwestern Native Americans used the crushed berries to curdle milk in making cheese, and the berries have also been used in various preparations for treating sore throat and toothache.
Warning: Berries and all parts of this plant are poisonous.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High


Propagation Material: Seeds

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From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Naval Air Station Kingsville - Kingsville, TX
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
National Butterfly Center - Mission, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0393 Collected May 23, 1993 in Comal County by Mary Beth White
NPSOT 0050 Collected May 4, 1990 in Bexar County by Lottie Millsaps
NPSOT 0014 Collected May 14, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry
NPSOT 0387 Collected May 14, 1987 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
NPSOT 0958 Collected Sep 18, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
NPSOT 0029 Collected Sept. 20, 1990 in Bexar County by Judith C. Berry

6 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium


Bibref 1211 - Folk Medicine: The Art and the Science (1985) Richard P. Steiner
Bibref 765 - McMillen's Texas Gardening: Wildflowers (1998) Howard, D.
Bibref 281 - Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F...
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller
Bibref 328 - Wildflowers of Texas (2003) Ajilvsgi, Geyata.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Solanum elaeagnifolium in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Solanum elaeagnifolium in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Solanum elaeagnifolium


Record Modified: 2023-02-28
Research By: NPC

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