Solanum elaeagnifolium

Silverleaf Nightshade - Solanum elaeagnifolium
Near Hillsboro
New Mexico, USA

Silverleaf Nightshade (a.k.a. Purple Nightshade, Silver Nightshade, White Horsenettle, Silverleaf Nettle, and Prairie Berry), Solanum elaeagnifolium, is one of the most common plant species in the foothills of the Black Range.  There are many scientific synonyms.  There is a white flower form, as well as the one which is shown here, it is less common.  

In North America, this species is found throughout the western United States, from Kansas in the Great Plains, Southward, and natively to Louisiana; from the US border well into Mexico (at least as far as Oaxaca).  It is also assumed to be native in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.  It is not known if the species originated in North or South America. At this point, it has been introduced into many countries of the world  - often to their chagrin.  The native range of this species is in some dispute, as the BONAP map to the right, indicates.  The pink color in New Mexico and elsewhere indicates that the species is considered a noxious weed in those locations.

All parts of this plant are poisonous and as with most poisons probably have medicinal applications.  Native Americans used the root to neutralize rattlesnake venom, the berries were used to treat sore throat and toothache, and in many other applications - how effectively these applications worked is not known.  The Pima, Navajo, and Cochiti all used crushed berries to curdle milk when making cheese.

When specimens are collected for scientific purposes they take on a life of their own.  The specimen shown below was collected in East Texas in 1872 by Elihu Hall and eventually ended up in the New York Botanical Garden in 1970.  Hall was born in 1822 in Virginia and died in 1882.  He was an avid collector and collected extensively in Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Arkansas, and Michigan.  He also collected plants in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois.  His skill and expertise was recognized by many of the leading botanist of his time, they honored him by naming numerous species after him.  Although this specimen is annotated to show that it was collected in New Mexico, there is no evidence that Hall ever collected in New Mexico.



Silverleaf Nightshade



© Robert Barnes 2018