Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Deadly fruit

with 11 comments

One last thing I’ll show you that I found on the embankment of the US 183 freeway in northwest Austin on December 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 species, like purple bindweed, is one of the hardiest and most widely distributed wildflowers in Austin and similarly has a bloom period that covers all but the coldest months of the year. Even after an individual silverleaf nightshade plant has stopped flowering, its fruits typically persist for months. The one shown here—which if it weren’t less than an inch in diameter could almost pass for some sort of orange—has just begun the characteristic shriveling that often continues through the winter. Unlike an orange, though, silverleaf nightshade is poisonous to people. The highlights on this small fruit make it look as if I used flash, but I didn’t; what you see is the natural shine of the fruit’s surface, even on a cloudy day.

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

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2011 at 5:04 AM

11 Responses

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  1. Nice capture Steve, the light is just right!


    December 8, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    • Thanks, David. The cloudy light was good in its own right, but the breeze from thousands of cars zooming by was hard to deal with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2011 at 2:29 PM

  2. I looked back at the nightshade’s bud and flower, and noticed again how different each life stage is from the other.

    I can imagine a wonderful learning game for children – or adults, for that matter – showing bud, flower and seed of multiple plants, each on its own card. The game? Match them up as you think they should be, and then learn how Mother Nature actually has arranged things!


    December 8, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    • I hope other readers unfamiliar with the earlier stages of silverleaf nightshade followed your example of looking back to see what preceded its fruit.

      Your game idea would be excellent for teachers, and it would fit right in with elementary school science lessons about the way caterpillars change into butterflies, one of the most astounding and unpredictable transformations in the world of nature. If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, here’s an opportunity for you to contact the makers of educational games, books, and software.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2011 at 7:05 AM

  3. This is a great image, Steve! Not only do you show this plant in great detail, as with all your shots, but the background imagery creates wonderful lines and shapes. Nice shot!


    December 8, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    • Thanks, Steve. As a fellow photographer (and namesake!) you can appreciate the lines and shapes in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2011 at 7:14 AM

  4. Wonderful shot! Just wondering, does it smell?


    December 9, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    • Thanks, Di’. As far as I recall, I’ve never noticed any scent from nightshade fruits, but I probably haven’t sniffed one close-up either. I’ll try to remember to do that the next time I come across one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 9, 2011 at 10:48 PM

  5. Standing so touching… This is great shot! I stayed in front of my screen… Talking something with me… This was so artistic and poetical. Thank you dear Steve, with my love, nia


    December 16, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    • If you see the image as artistic and poetical, Nia, and if it kept you in front of your screen, then I know I’ve succeeded. Thanks again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 11:35 AM

  6. […] opposed to the fruits of silverleaf nightshade, those of this species are spheres with spikes jutting out of them; you can see parts of two of […]

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