Solanum elaeagnifolium

Solanum elaeagnifolium

This article is about the Solanum elaeagnifolium described by A. J. Cavanilles. The plant described under the same name by W. Herbert and C. L. Willdenow based on E.G. von Steudel is S. aethiopicum.

Silver-leaved Nightshade or Silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, is a common weed of western North America and also found in South America. Other common names include Prairie Berry, Silverleaf Nettle, White Horsenettle or Silver Nightshade. In South Africa it is known as Silver-leaf bitter-apple or satansbos ("Satan's Bush" in Afrikaans). More ambiguous names include "bull-nettle", "horsenettle" and the Spanish "trompillo".

Description and ecology

It is a perennial 10 cm to 1 m in height. The stems are covered with short spines, ranging from very few on some plants to very dense on others. Leaves and stems are also covered with downy hairs that lie against and hide the surface, giving a silvery or grayish appearance.

The leaves are up to 15 cm long and usually only 0.5 to 2.5 cm wide, with shallowly waved edges. This is one of the marks distinguishing it from the closely related Carolina Horsenettle (S. carolinense), which has wider, more deeply indented leaves. The flowers, appearing from April to August, have five petals united to form a star, ranging from blue to pale lavender or occasionally white; five yellow stamens and a pistil form a projecting center. The plant produces glossy yellow, orange, or red berries that last all winter and may turn brown as they dry.

Its range is from Kansas south to Louisiana, and west through the Mexican-border states of the United States into Mexico, as well as Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. Possibly it originated in North America and was accidentally introduced to South America or vice-versa. It can grow in poor soil with very little water. It spreads by rhizomes as well as seeds, and is common in disturbed habitats. Partly because of these characteristics, it is considered a noxious weed in 21 U.S. states and in countries such as Australia, Egypt, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. It is toxic to livestock and very hard to control, as rootstocks less than 1 cm long can regenerate into plants. However, some gardeners encourage it as a xeriscape ornamental.

The Pima Indians used the berries as a vegetable rennet, and the Kiowa used the seeds together with brain tissue to tan leather.


This plant has been described under a range of names, all now invaild. These contain many homonyms among them:

  • Solanum dealbatum Lindl.
  • Solanum flavidum Torr.
  • Solanum incanum Pav. ex Dunal (non L.: preoccupied)

S. incanum of Ruiz & Pavón Jiménez is S. albidum as decribed by Dunal.
S. incanum of Kitaibel based on Kanitz is S. villosum as decribed by Philip Miller
S. incanum of Scheff. is S. schefferi.
S. incanum var. lichtensteinii and var. subexarmatum are S. lichtensteinii.

  • Solanum leprosum Ortega
  • Solanum obtusifolium Dunal (non Willd.: preoccupied)

S. obtusifolium of Hartweg based on Otto Sendtner in von Martius is S. ferrugineum.
S. obtusifolium of Willdenow is S. aethiopicum.

  • Solanum pyriforme var. uniflorum Dunal
  • Solanum roemerianum Scheele
  • Solanum saponaceum Hook. (non Dunal: preoccupied)

S. saponaceum of Welwitsch is S. aculeastrum.
S. saponaceum var. uruguense is S. bonariense.

  • Solanum texense Engelm. & A.Gray
  • Solanum uniflorum Meyen ex Nees (non Dunal: preoccupied)

S. uniflorum of de Conceição Vellozo is S. pseudocapsicum.
S. uniflorum of Sessé & Mociño and S. uniflorum of Dunal in Poiret have been identified as Lycianthes mociniana.
S. uniflorum of Lagasca y Segura and Solanum uniflorum var. berterianum are undetermined species of Lycianthes.

Several varieties and forms of S. elaeagnifolium have been named. But therse days, they are not usually considered taxonomically distinct anymore:

  • Solanum elaeagnifolium f. albiflorum Cockerell
  • Solanum elaeagnifolium var. angustifolium Kuntze

Not to be confused with S. angustifolium of Philip Miller

  • Solanum elaeagnifolium var. argyrocroton Griseb.
  • Solanum elaeagnifolium f. benkei Standl.
  • Solanum elaeagnifolium var. grandiflorum Griseb.

Not to be confused with S. grandiflorum of Ruiz and Pavón Jiménez

  • Solanum elaeagnifolium var. leprosum (Ortega) Dunal
  • Solanum elaeagnifolium var. obtusifolium (Dunal) Dunal

However, S. elaeagnifolium var. ovalifolium does not refer to the S. ovalifolium as described by Dunal and does not belong to the present species; it is actually S. aridum. Meanwhile, S. crispum var. elaeagnifolium is just the normal S. crispum of Ruiz and Pavón Jiménez.



  • [2008]: Encycloweedia – Solanum part 2 Retrieved 2008-SEP-26.
  • (1984): Intermountain Flora; Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. (Vol. 4. Subclass Asteridae except Asteraceae). The New York Botanical Garden. ISBN 0-231-04120-9
  • (1984): A Field Guide to Southwestern and Texas Wildflowers. Houghton Mifflin Company, ISBN 0-395-36640-2
  • (2005): Oregon Invasive Species Action Plan. PDF fulltext
  • [2008]: Solanum elaeagnifolium Retrieved 2008-SEP-26.
  • (2006): Germplasm Resources Information Network - Solanum elaeagnifolium Version of 2006-JAN-14. Retrieved 2008-SEP-26.
  • (2008): Silverleaf Nightshade Version of 2008-JUL-09. Retrieved 2008-SEP-26.

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