Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Silverleaf nightshade flower

with 27 comments

Click for greater clarity.


Yesterday’s post featured the bud of a silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, one of the most common wildflowers in central Texas. The plant’s buds open into flowers with five petal-like lobes that tend to fold back, and from the center of that folded-back purple cowl protrude five richly yellow, banana-like stamens that surround a lone pistil that protrudes even farther than they do. From the base of each stamen there’s a line of yellow that arcs out into the adjacent purple; you can see three of those radiating yellow arcs without much trouble, and with a little effort you can make out a fourth to the left of and slightly behind the column of stamens.

This photograph is one of twelve that as of today are on display at the Elisabet Ney Museum in Austin. That exhibition came about after the museum’s director saw the two photographs of turk’s caps that I took on the grounds there in June and that I posted in this blog on August 5 and August 6. She invited me to display them at the museum as part of Austin Museum Day, and I accepted. To have enough for a small show, I made two more trips to the property, which is currently being restored to a native prairie, and took more photographs. It’s encouraging to see how many local species can reappear on a piece of ground when given the chance.

For those not familiar with Elisabet Ney, a German artist who settled in Texas in the 1800s and specialized in sculpture, I encourage you to take a look at the museum’s website and Wikipedia.

Readers in central Texas are welcome to stop by the museum at 304 E. 44th St. today between noon and five o’clock to take in the art and say hello. (Anyone who wants to jet in from farther afield is welcome too.)

For more information about Solanum elaeagnifolium, including a clickable map showing the many places in the United States where this species grows, you can visit the USDA websiste.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2011 at 4:50 AM

27 Responses

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  1. Congratulations on your exhibit at Elizabeth Ney! Also on your latest article and photos in the Texas Highways Magazine! You are the best!!!

    Agnes Plutino

    September 25, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    • Thanks, Agnes. Come by this afternoon and visit if you can. I’ll be planted there, but with my camera stashed away for once.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2011 at 7:27 AM

  2. What a beautiful picture..it almost looks like a little green “shooting heart” at the center. Congratulations on the exhibit. I wish I could jet in for the day.


    September 25, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    • Good description, “shooting heart,” like a shooting star. The nightshades, though poisonous, are in the same family as some of the plants we eat. Compare the flowers of eggplants and those of potatoes, for example, and you’ll see the family resemblance. So even if you can’t jet in for the day, you can have some eggplant parmigiana and mashed potatoes and be here in spirit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2011 at 7:35 AM

  3. How cool! This looks a lot like what must be its cousin, the bittersweet nightshade (S. dulcamara) we have up here – http://tinyurl.com/5vhk92j

    Congrats on the show, too.


    September 25, 2011 at 10:52 AM

    • Yes indeed. I see that in your species the stamens are fused, as is the case with some other species as well. Thanks for the congrats.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

  4. Perfect DOF use, Beautiful


    September 25, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    • Thank you. I often try to make the background go away, something the camera allows that our eyes, with their almost instantaneous refocusing, don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2011 at 11:19 AM

  5. Everybody! You must check out this site! I was trying to research why the leaves of the type of nightshade we have up here, which I mentioned in my comment above, are turning purple right now. And I came across a site I’ve seen before in connection with queen anne’s lace – this link, however, focuses on bittersweet nightshade. It’s completely droolworthy close-ups, including cellular structure-level stuff. Enjoy! http://tinyurl.com/62pxo4a is the site.


    September 25, 2011 at 6:24 PM

  6. Stunning macro, Steve. Congrats on your exhibition. I, too, wish I could jet down to see it!


    September 26, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    • Thanks, Cindy. In lieu of seeing the pictures at the museum, you’ll get to see them here in the days ahead. That’s less expensive than flying in, but I’m afraid you won’t accumulate any airline miles toward a free flight that way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2011 at 4:54 PM

  7. I am so enjoying looking at your photos and what you have written about them. This one is especially exquisite. Like you captured the soul of this flower…deadly as it is.


    September 27, 2011 at 3:47 PM

  8. This is wonderful – I really love the contrasting colours 🙂


    October 5, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    • Me too. This species, which some people consider a weed (alas!), has been thriving just as much in the drought as in normal years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2011 at 12:54 PM

  9. […] 1 is the drying fruit of silveleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, a plant whose bud and flower appeared in October posts highlighting the prairie restoration at the Elisabet Ney Museum. This […]

  10. […] its first appearance in these pages. It’s buffalo bur, Solanum rostratum, a genus-mate of the silverleaf nightshade that some of you saw last fall. There are people who consider both of these plants to be weeds, but […]

  11. […] still managed to find things to photograph on this parcel of prairie. Last year’s posts from September 25 to October 5 showed an assortment of those hardy native […]

  12. […] 2011 I showed photographs of a bud and the center of a flower of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, one of the most common wildflowers in central […]

  13. […] In early December there were still lots of silverleaf nightshade flowers around Austin, but the first freeze soon put an end to all of them. In a third type of illusion, you might try to picture (if you don’t already know) what sort of flowers produce the fruits shown here; you can see how close you came by checking a photograph from 2011. […]

  14. Bother….missed the exhibition! By a few years.


    July 24, 2014 at 6:32 AM

    • The posts following this one show the remaining pictures that were in the exhibition, so you can still take a virtual tour.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2014 at 8:08 AM

  15. […] several species of Solanum. The two most common with flowers similar to those of S. aviculare are S. elaeagnifolium and S. […]

  16. The silkiness of the open blossom seems almost irreconcilable with the feltiness of the flower’s bud I admired just a minute ago.


    September 16, 2022 at 10:01 PM

    • Silkiness and feltiness: two textures in one, so to speak. Silverleaf nightshade has been profuse in Austin these last few weeks, presumably as a result of the rain that finally came our way a little before then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2022 at 9:55 PM

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