Wednesday, January 17, 2007

botany for the paranoid

I recently realized that a weed that I have been tolerating in the yard for a couple of years, because it's flowers are almost attractive, is probably some species of Solanum.

Solanum, of the nightshade family. As in deadly nightshade.

Right now in the front yard some fruits that look a lot like this are hanging on a dead stem, just like the ones in this picture.

The picture above is of Solanum carolinense. Aka Carolina Horse Nettle. Aka Devil's Tomato. Apple of Sodom. Apple of Freaking Sodom!

May or may not be the same species I have. All of the pictures on that web page look sorta close, but so do the pictures of a number of other Solanum species.

Assuming that actually is Solanum carolinense, it is apparently toxic only in large quantities. (How did they figure that out? Did some scientist feed those little tomato-looking things to test subjects and count how many it took before they started vomiting, dying, etc?) Nevertheless it doesn't have much of a future in this yard. Not with a two year old in the house.

It's kind of freaky how our friends the potato, tomato, eggplant, and chili pepper are all in the same genus. You aren't supposed to eat the leaves of potatoes and tomatoes, I'm pretty sure. The tomato was, according to wikipedia, originally cultivated as an ornamental before people knew you could safely eat it. I can only imagine the desperation that drove some crazy person to first eat one.