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Weedy nightshades

Horse-NettleWhen I posted yesterday that weedy nightshades can carry the potato blight, both Mom and Zimmy asked me to clarify.  Sorry to be confusing --- sometimes the botanist in me assumes things are obvious when they aren't.

Potatoes and tomatoes are both members of the Solanum genus, which is why they are able to share the blight.  Here in southwest Virginia, we have two common members of the same genus that tend to spring up as weeds in pastures and other disturbed areas.  Horse-Nettle (S. carolinense, top photo) is very memorable after the Black Nightshadefirst time you try to hand-weed it and end up with fingers full of thorns, while Black Nightshade (S. americanum, middle photo) is most obvious in the fall when it is coated with small black berries (that my plant manual says are poisonous when raw but can be cooked into pies when ripe.)

Since both Horse-Nettles and Black Nightshades share the same genus with tomatoes and potatoes, they also share susceptability to the blight and can help the disease overwinter.  I call these plants "weedy nightshades" because all members of the family are sometimes referred to as "nightshades", and these two species are weeds in my garden.

Our homemade chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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Maybe you should actually plant MORE of the horse nettle as a decoy crop. It looks like the flea beetles like it. ;-)
Comment by Everett Thu May 20 09:40:12 2010
Thank you! You just answered what has been plaguing me in one of my garden areas since I moved in 5 years ago... no matter what I can't get rid of that stuff... and yes the first time I grabbed it, my hand lit up!
Comment by Shannon Thu May 20 13:13:30 2010

Everett --- I like the way you think! Flea beetles are a huge problem on eggplant, where they carry a disease that wipes the crop out. That's the big reason we don't grow eggplant --- it's just too much of a pain. Maybe if we planted horse nettles near the eggplant as a trap crop, then destroyed the horse nettles before the egg plant came up?

Shannon --- I'm glad I could help! It's a perennial, so if you want it to go away, you have to dig down to the roots.

Comment by anna Thu May 20 14:17:18 2010
mmm, Black Nightshade pie
Comment by joey [] Thu May 20 16:48:52 2010
Geez --- a pun plus a joke all rolled into one phrase?! :-)
Comment by anna Thu May 20 17:05:24 2010

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