Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Silverleaf nightshade fruits

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Silverleaf Nightshade Fruits by Coral Honeysuckle 5758

Click for greater clarity.

Near the coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, that appeared in the last two photographs (and that softly lights up the background of this one), I found some fruits of silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium, at the Arbor Walk Pond in north Austin on December 4, 2013.

In one sort of illusion, the bright fruits may appear to be partly in front of the darker picture plane. In a different kind of illusion, you may imagine that you’re looking at two planetary orbs.

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.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2014 at 6:03 AM

12 Responses

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  1. Jim in IA

    January 12, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    • It’s a schizophrenic family. Many members are poisonous (including silverleaf nightshade), but some members give us important foods: potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2014 at 8:28 AM

  2. Impressive! I love to see the fruits and all your shots are so sharp!

    • In the half-megapixel versions shown here—large for a blog but small in absolute terms—it’s easier to preserve sharpness than it is in full-size versions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2014 at 9:49 AM

  3. My first case of athlete’s foot arrived during one of Costa Rica’s extremely-rainy seasons. Living far from a pharmacy, I ignored the problem for a few days, and each day the problem got worse! I consulted 100 healing plants of Belize book and discovered that the juice of the nightshade berry was one suggestion for curing athlete’s foot – eureka, that plant grew in the area, and there were berries at that time of year. I sliced a berry, rubbed it on the problem areas, and before going to sleep applied the treatment again. The next morning, the infection was almost gone! By the end of the second day, it was history!
    Every so often I’ll see the problem returning, and one treatment is all that’s need!

    The one in your photo will surely work; we don’t have the same plant (as in CR) here in Ecuador, but we have a cousin to it, and it works just as well!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    • I was thinking about you just yesterday, and now here you are. That’s great testimony you’ve given us for possible external use of Solanum elaeagnifolium. Although the species is toxic internally, in Delena Tull’s Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest I see that “The Pimas used the berry as a substitute for rennet in making cheese.” She also says that “The Kiowas combined the fruit with brain tissue for tanning hides.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2014 at 1:22 PM

  4. What an exotic and amazing plant—the silverleaf nightshade together with its fruits. I enjoyed my introduction to this plant through your beautuiful photos, Steve.

    Mary Mageau

    January 13, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    • Exotic and amazing, yet one of the most common wildflowers we have here, and one that can be found blooming in most months of the year. Many people in Texas probably consider it a weed, but I don’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2014 at 7:10 PM

  5. This photo cracks me up—looks like a little bug-eyed alien! 😀


    January 13, 2014 at 8:56 PM

  6. I found a single fruit in the woods at Armand Bayou Nature Center on Sunday afternoon that I still haven’t identified. I’m not diligent enough to have a camera with me at all times, and sometimes I regret it.

    In the process of looking, I came across Matt Turner’s book, “Remarkable Plants of Texas”. Do you know the book? Recommend it? He mentions the same medicinal use for this plant as does Zeebra.


    January 15, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    • I know the book (which I have and recommend) and the author, who has been active in the Austin chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas for years.

      Despite my decade and a half of photographing local plants, there are still plenty of things I can’t identify. One reason is that individuals in a species vary a lot. Another is that the same feature on the same individual can look different as it ages (for example, the fruits shown here change color as they mature). Still another is that different species in the same genus can look quite similar. All those things could inspire the motto “Photographs come first.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2014 at 9:16 AM

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