Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Fruits in addition to flowers

with 25 comments

Silverleaf Nightshade Fruit 1323

It wasn’t only flowers I saw along Great Northern Blvd. on December 23 of last year, but also fruits, notably some from a silverleaf nightshade, Solanum elaeagnifolium. Clouds kept me from catching the Christmas full moon soon afterward, but I have this orb to show for that week.

If you’re reminded of a yellow cherry tomato, it’s because tomatoes are in the same botanical family as nightshades. Many plants in the nightshade family are poisonous, so early European colonists in the Americas originally refused to eat tomatoes. The fear of tomatoes continued in the colonies and back in Europe for a long time afterward. That set me to wondering whether anyone is still afraid of tomatoes.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2016 at 5:03 AM

25 Responses

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  1. A beautiful orb. I am sure someone will be afraid of tomatoes. Some people, my grandmother included, had a fear they would be poisoned by cucumbers. http://www.cooksinfo.com/cucumbers


    January 9, 2016 at 7:03 AM

    • That’s a good link. I had no idea there were so many superstitions about cucumbers. The claim, repeated on the Internet, that the inside of a cucumber is as much as 20°F cooler than the outside immediately struck me as highly unlikely to be true under natural conditions (but I expect it might be true briefly if you took a thoroughly refrigerated cucumber and set it outside under the bright summer sun on a hot day). On the other hand, the mistaking of bitter for poisonous makes sense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2016 at 8:34 AM

      • I didn’t actually know about the poison cucumber belief until a few years ago when my uncle casually mentioned why my grandmother always served cucumber thinly sliced in a vinegar solution. I always rather liked it but apparently others in the family thought it was a horrible way to serve cucumber. Others being those who didn’t believe the cucumber poison myth.


        January 9, 2016 at 6:45 PM

  2. As delightful as it is to find a new flower here, finding a friend’s nice, too. Granted, I’d never seen these until last fall, but once you see a plant covered with these planetary-looking fruits, you don’t forget them.

    While I’m not afraid of tomatoes, I did look at them a little sideways for about a week after I saw the film “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.” It was meant to be a spoof on sci-fi films, and it was funny. Still, there’s something about the formula that can work: take an ordinary object and turn it into a nightmare. It certainly worked for Hitchcock, with his birds.


    January 9, 2016 at 7:14 AM

    • Once I learned the basics of native plants in Austin, I, too, began to think in terms of “old friends” in various places, even outside my area, whenever I encountered now-familiar species.

      Aas a child I loved tomato juice, tomato soup, and ketchup, but didn’t originally have a liking for fresh tomatoes. When it was that I got over that and began to like fresh tomatoes too, I don’t remember, nor what caused the change. I do remember that our next-door neighbors on one side, Americans of Italian background, used to plant tomatoes in a corner of their yard. From that patch I first experienced the distinctive smell of tomato plants, which I found and still find pleasant.

      I’ve heard of “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” but haven’t ever seen it. We recently watched “Hitchcock,” a movie about the making of “Psycho.” After that came “The Birds.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2016 at 8:52 AM

  3. Beautiful shading on this one. I think my knee-jerk response would have been to lighten the shadow. I am glad you resisted the temptation though. To my eye the result makes the fruit look as if it were in planetary (not plant) orbit.

    Pairodox Farm

    January 9, 2016 at 7:37 AM

    • I sometimes fret about how much to lighten a shadow, and I usually do so to reveal a little detail in what would otherwise be too uniformly dark. Here, though, the planetary mood came over me and I overcame any impulse to reveal much detail. After all, there’s only a one-letter difference between planet and plant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2016 at 8:56 AM

  4. Does my dislike of ketchup count?


    January 9, 2016 at 9:07 AM

  5. I was thinking the first tomatoes were also pretty bitter, that it took a bit to produce the modern tomato.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 9, 2016 at 10:11 AM

    • That’s a good point. I wonder if it’s known to what extent the Aztecs and other peoples had bred the tomato.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2016 at 10:34 AM

  6. That is a good point~I tend to forget that the fruit we know ain’t what it used to be. The thing I enjoyed about this photo is the contrast between the angle of the stem set off against the roundness of the fruit, and the movement this creates.
    I, too, think in terms of old friends with plants. I always grow tomatoes in the hopes of attracting the gigantic hornworms I enjoyed so much as a child. I haven’t seen one in years~I fear pesticides may have won that one.


    January 9, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    • Like you, I found the retroflex stalk leading to the fruit, together with the 2 Vs along the main stalk, provided good angular counterbalances to the roundness of the fruit. (Welcome to Art Appreciation 101.)

      Maybe in the spring you can buy some hornworms and try to get them re-established in your area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 9, 2016 at 10:53 AM

  7. […] wasn’t surprised to come across some little yellow silverleaf nightshade fruits along Great Northern Blvd. on December 23rd of last year, but balsam gourd vines, Ibervillea […]

  8. When I give a slideshow, I sometimes am afraid of tomatoes. None thrown my way yet.

    I agree with David that the shadow creates some nice modeling and does present a bit of a planetary look to the fruit.

    Steve Gingold

    January 10, 2016 at 6:00 AM

    • I’m willing to bet no one at a slideshow will ever cast a tomato your way. (Based on my own experience, I’ll bet no will throw a lot of money our way, either.)

      I, too, was seeing this fruit in a planetary way, and that inspired the word orb in the post’s text (just try saying post’s texts quickly several times in a row).

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 10, 2016 at 6:30 AM

      • I’m not exactly living off my art either, Steve. I have a feeling my big break slipped on by unnoticed…or got distracted by someone else.

        Steve Gingold

        January 10, 2016 at 6:59 AM

  9. Interesting isn’t it? Tomatoes and spuds leaves are poisonous ..


    January 10, 2016 at 7:25 PM

  10. A similar plant, with prickly leaves grows in Spain, Solanum sodomaceum, common name Apple of Sodom!


    January 13, 2016 at 4:02 AM

    • That sounds ominous, no doubt a reflection of the fact that the plants in the genus Solanum are so often harmful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2016 at 8:05 AM

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