Herbs & Plants

Solanum carolinense

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Botanical Name: Solanum carolinense
Kingdom: Plantae
Order:     Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus:     Solanum
Species: S. carolinense

Solanum pumilum (as described by Michel Félix Dunal) was considered a variety hirsutum of the Carolina Horsenettle by D’Arcy and A. Gray. Several other varieties and forms of S. carolinense are not considered taxonomically distinct nowadays:

*Solanum carolinense f. albiflorum (Kuntze) Benke
*Solanum carolinense var. albiflorum Kuntze
*Solanum carolinense var. floridanum (Dunal) Chapm.
*Solanum carolinense var. pohlianum Dunal

Finally, there are some other junior synonyms used for this plant:

*Solanum floridanum Raf.
*Solanum floridanum Shuttlew. ex Dunal (non Raf.: preoccupied)
*Solanum godfreyi Shinners
*Solanum pleei Dunal

Common names: Horsenettle, Radical weed, Sand brier or Briar, Bull nettle, Tread-softly, Apple of Sodom, Devil’s tomato and Wild tomato.”Horsenettle” is also written “horse nettle” or “horse-nettle”, though USDA publications usually use the one-word form. Though there are other horsenettle nightshades, S. carolinense is the species most commonly called “the horsenettle”.

Habitat:Solanum carolinense is native to the southeastern United States that has spread widely throughout North America.  This weed is a hardy, coarse perennial, found growing in waste sandy ground as far west as Iowa and south to Florida. These plants can be found growing in pastures, roadsides, railroad margins, and in disturbed areas and waste ground. They grow to about 1 m tall, but are typically shorter, existing as sub  shrubs. They prefer sandy or loamy soils.

Solanum carolinense, Carolina horsenettle is not a true nettle, but a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. It is a perennial herbaceous plant.
Leaves are alternate, elliptic-oblong to oval, 2.5 to 4.5 inches long, and each is irregularly lobed or coarsely toothed. Both surfaces are covered with fine hairs. Leaves smell like potatoes when crushed. The flowers have five petals and are usually white or purple with yellow centers, though there is a blue variant that resembles the tomato flower. The fruits also resemble tomatoes. The immature fruit is dark green with light green stripes, turning yellow and wrinkled as it matures. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October. The plant grows to 3 feet tall, is perennial, and spreads by both seeds and underground rhizome. Stems of older plants are woody.

Cultivation: Succeeds in most soils.

Propagation: Seed – sow early spring in a warm greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out after the last expected frosts.

Medicinal Uses:

Parts Used:  Air-dried ripe berries & root.

Constituents:  Probably Solanine and Solanidine and an organic acid.

The berries and the root are anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac and diuretic. They have been used in the treatment of epilepsy. They have been recommended in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other convulsive disorders. The berries should be harvested when fully ripe and carefully air-dried. An infusion of the seeds has been gargled as a treatment for sore throats and drunk in the treatment of goitre. A tea made from the wilted leaves has been gargled in the treatment of sore throats and the tea has been drunk in the treatment of worms. A poultice made from the leaves has been applied to poison ivy rash.

Known Hazards : All parts of the plant are poisonous to varying degrees due to the presence of solanine which is a toxic alkaloid and one of the plant’s natural defenses. While ingesting any part of the plant can cause fever, headache, scratchy throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, ingesting the fruit can cause abdominal pain, circulatory and respiratory depression, or even death. Fatalities have been reported with children.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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