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Silver Leaf Nightshade

Silver-leaf nightshade flower

Silver-leaf nightshade fruits

Apple of sodom green fruit & leaf

Apple of sodom plant

Apple of sodom ripe fruit

Solanum celatum plant

Solanum celatum flower & hairs

Solanum celatum fruit

Forest nightshade green fruit

Forest nightshade flower

   


family

Solanaceae

status

Silverleaf nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is listed as noxious in category 4 in Southern Slopes LCA.

Description

An erect perennial herb about 30-45cm or up to 80cm high, much branched and appearing silver-white from the dense covering of short fine stellate hairs (hairs in starburst-like clusters, may need magnification to be visible) and with sparse to numerous 2-4mm long prickles on the stems and leaf undersides. Leaves are 6-15cm by 1-2cm in size, alternately arranged
on the stems, with shallowly lobed wavy margins, both sides of the leaf silvery hairy. Flowers are purple (occasionally white or pink), 2-3.5cm across and carried in the leaf axils in clusters of 1-4. The 5 fused petals form a star shape. The fruit is a 8-14mm diameter berry, orange-brown when ripe. The two photos of this weed above were provided by  RG & FJ Richardson of www.weedinfo.com.

Preferred habitat and impacts

Most common in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, where its distribution is patchy but it can be locally abundant. Plants germinate in autumn and grow through the winter, flowering in spring and summer and fruiting over several months. Plants die off at the end of summer, but plants remain standing for several months.

Competes for resources with summer growing crops and pastures, having a deep root system which makes it highly competitive for soil water. All parts of the plant are toxic to livestock.

Dispersal

Spread is by root pieces and seed. The old plants can snap off and blow around as tumble-weeds, with dried fruits attached. Seed can be spread by water, on machinery and animals and as contaminants of agricultural produce. Birds and animals may eat the fruits and germination has been shown to improve after seed has passed through sheep.

Look-alikes

There are many native and naturalised nightshades with variable quantities of prickles on the
stems, leaves and flowers. All but buffalo burr, another noxious weed, have purple flowers. Apple of Sodom (Solanum linnaeanum) is a similar looking weed with lobed leaves and large fruits which are yellow when ripe, but it is bright green in colour, not silvery.  It is an occasional weed of roadsides and waste ground in the Illawarra.

Another native nightshade from the Illawarra, which does have a greyish colouration due to a dense coating of stellate hairs on the leaves and stems is Solanum celatum.  This species is listed as threatened in NSW, as it is known only from a restricted area of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.  It does exhibit "weedy" behaviour, as it tends to grow in disturbed situations, such as where other weeds like lantana have been removed, and it could be mistaken for a weedy nightshade. The last 2 photos are of the common native forest nightshade, Solanum prinophyllum.

Control

Mature plants are hard to kill so it is important to treat small infestations as sson as they appear. Cultivation does not go deep enough to kill all the root system. The large root system enables plants to resprout after treatment with herbicide, which is generally not very effective. If an infestation does develop, do not allow stock to graze in the vicinity, to prevent seed being spread by them. Various possible biological control agents are under investigation.




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