Sociable

oops, that WASN'T a tomato... am I gonna die now?

9/9/10
Silverleaf nightshade poisoning in livestock (Progress report / Texas Agricultural Experiment Station)Troublesome silver-leaf nightshade susceptible to leaf-gall nematode (The scientists tell me)
There I was, water on full blast (and yet it was a pathetic little trickle) trying to save my roommates plant beds in the front yard. There are a couple that will probably make it but one of the tomato plants might be beyond the pale. Anyway, I turned around to turn off the water and had to walk through the other side of the yard. This side has a couple of nice shade trees but its full of the same strange weeds as the backyard.
As I'm walking back to the knob I see a couple of random plants along the walk that are being smothered by weeds so I give them all a drink and start looking more carefully. Thats when I saw them. They looked like weird tomato plants, kind of short and squat. The leaves were narrow, about an inch and a half long and a sort of silvery green. There seemed to be two types, one with bigger thorns, yellow fruit the size of cherry tomatoes and scalloped edges to the leaves, the other had fruit that was green. It looked sort of like small watermelons. That plant had strait leaves and smaller thorns. They smelled good.

I got all excited thinking "OMG we have a whole yard full of cute little tomatoes or maybe watermelons!! This is so great."
I was so excited I texted Stella with the good news. Then I got a fruit of each color and brought it inside. I cut them open to see the inside. The yellow one looked like a typical tomato except with green pulp, the green one had sort of arrow head shaped leaves. I got even more excited thinking of watermelons.
At this point I'm googling tomatoes and watermelon images like crazy but the leaves all look wrong and the leaves are the major identifier. Suddenly my phone rang. It was my friend Valery, artist, foodie and plant lover. (See her website here: http://www.fluxfire.com) So I start describing the plant to her. She's all "hmm, I dunno, that sounds odd, lemme think" when out of nowhere she gets all excited and starts yelling "DONT EAT THAT" at me "I know what that is" she says "that's Nightshade and it's poisonous." I was like "holy shit, I licked it, am I gonna die??" And of course started googling the heck out of nightshade but I couldn't find any pictures that looked like what we have until I landed on an Australian government site. The plant is called the Silverleaf Nightshade. It's poisonous and possibly deadly to children and animals (particularly livestock, although fortunately less so to dogs cuz Evelyn has been popping the berries like they are candy 0_o), invasive, can live dormant underground for up to 15 years and will grow from any bit of root. Ack. Apparently our evil invasive weeds in the backyard may actually be dormant (non seed producing) off shoots of the Nightshade (I may be wrong here, but it looks alike except for the lack of fruit). The info I read suggests it may take 3 years to remove them if it isn't completely impossible. Our yards are infested. I went all the way around the perimeter even to the back and they are all around the edges in the shaded areas.
Some of the sites suggest growing a larger plant and hacking down the nightshade until the crop plants are well established but we aren't going to grow barley in the front yard! I'm also concerned about the neighborhood kids. The fruit looks great and the flowers are gorgeous. What if some little kids get into them? Urg.
The roommates and I have decided to rip all the weeds and Nightshade out on Sunday. Then we are going to cover the area with landscapers cloth and rocks. It should look ok, it'll save on water and it should keep the Nightshade dormant until the house's owner decides to do something about it, or the next tenant does.
Anyway, Nightshade is a very odd plant. Here is more info on it if you are interested in learning more or need to remove it from your own yard:
http://www.nwcb.wa.gov/weed_info/Written_findings/Solanum_elaeagnifolium.html
http://www.santafebotanicalgarden.org/subpages/LCWP%20Naughty%20Ladies.html

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