Silverleaf nightshade – the beauty is a beast

Attractive flower of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade flower

Silverleaf nightshade is a beautiful plant, but the beauty is a beast!  The silver leaves are attractive, but their blue flowers with prominent yellow stamens attract a lot of attention.

 

 

 

This plant’s attractive characteristics hide some unattractive features.  It is related to deadly nightshade and is itself listed among  plants toxic to both humans and livestock.  More than that, it is listed as a noxious weed in several states and acknowledged as a weed in most others.  It is, however, a relative of tomatoes, tomatoes, and chiles.  These are all members of the Nightshade family, Solanaceae, and most members of this family do contain toxic elements in some of the plant parts.

Spines on stems of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines

If that was not enough it produces spines on most above ground parts of the plants.  While some plants produce more spines than others, and it has been reported that plants growing in humid climates produce few or no spines, for gardeners in the Southwest, this plant produces some spiny problems.

 

There are even spines on unopened flowers of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on unopened flowers

The unopened flower buds produce spines.

 

 

 

 

Spent flowers, leaves, stems, buds of silverleaf nightshade have spines
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on all parts

The spent flowers have spines. Spines can be found on leaves, buds, everywhere above ground!

 

 

 

 

There are spines on fruit of silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade spines on fruit

Even the fruit produce spines on their  sepals.

 

 

 

 

Clump of interconnected silverleaf nightshade plants
Solanum elaeagnifolium silverleaf nightshade cluster of interconnected plants

Silverleaf nightshade is a weed with a deep taproot that allows it to survive in very arid environments.  Even a small piece of root left in the soil will generate a new plant.  Plants in a clump are often attached to each other by underground stems, so that they can help support each other.  This makes them survivors, it also makes them weeds.

 

As weeds we try to remove them, but be careful, the spines easily break after piercing your skin and become difficult to remove.  These spines can sometimes even penetrate leather garden gloves!

So can there be anything good said about these plants?  Well, they are beautiful, but the beauty is a beast!  They are toxic, but like many toxic plants, the toxic principles can be curative when used properly.  They were used medicinally and as beneficial plants by native people.  They were even able able to use the ground, dried, fruit to curdle milk to make cheese.

Never the less, the beauty is a beast!

Golden Currants consistent production even in drought

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit ready for harvest

Golden Currants, Ribes aureum, are a reliable, consistent producer in my garden.  The black berries must be picked individually by hand, but make a delicious jam or preserves.  In this drought year when the garden has received only about 2 inches of precipitation since October, none from October to January and none in April, it still made a crop.  I did irrigate a few times, but only minimally.

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit many ready for harvest even after over 2 gallons of berries harvested

Even after harvesting over 2 gallons from a few plants, there is much more to harvest.

Birds and a berry moth (their larvae) are the primary problems, but I still have a bountiful harvest of tasty berries.

 

 

Golden Currant blossoms
Ribes aureum flowers

Fragrant golden flowers followed by abundant harvest, even in times of drought, make these reliable producers a good choice for gardens in New Mexico.

Black currents fruit of the Golden Currant - Ribes aureum
Ribes aureum – Golden Currant fruit ready to harvest

Hare barley is a harmful plant

Hare barley seed heads showing awns that can be harmful to pets
Hare barley seed heads showing awns

Hare barley and some other grasses,  such as foxtail barley and purple three awn grass, have characteristics that can be harmful to pets.  These grasses are harmful plants that have awns, long threadlike extensions from the florets in the seed head.  These awn have very small backward angled spines.  These awn can enter a pets eyes, nostrils, ears, or even penetrate their skin.  The backward spines prevent the awns from working out the way they entered, they only work deeper into the eyes, nostrils, ears, or skin.  A few years ago my pet Brittany, Joy, had one enter between her toes and work deeply into her paw.  She began limping and the veterinarian had to extract the awn.  This is when I learned that this is an extremely common problem for pets.

Hare barley seed heads developing
Hare Barley

In a year like this year when there has been little rain (just over 1 inch from October to late April), anything green seems to be a blessing, but that may not be the case, especially if you have pets.  In garden hare barley and foxtail barley are sprouting and the hare barley is beginning to produce seed heads.  I think I have eliminated purple three awn grass from my garden, but I will be watching for it.  All these grasses are pretty, so it is tempting to allow them to remain, but if you have pets it is best to eliminate these grasses.

There are herbicides labeled for management of these grass weeds and other harmful plants, but if you are like me and have pets you may prefer to use manual means of weed management.  Hoeing them when they first appear in late winter is helpful.  If they are numerous and you cannot manage them by hoeing, you can use a torch to burn them, but be careful that you do not start a fire or damage desirable nearby plants.  This year’s drought has been a blessing in limiting the number of plants that are growing to a relatively manageable few in my garden.  I have been pulling, digging, and hoeing them for several months.  Now, as the seed heads form and I can specifically identify the worst of the weed grasses, those with harmful awns, I can specifically target those plants.

A poem: SOON SPRING WILL COME AND LIFE RENEW

I’m a little late with this.  The renewing has begun!

 

SOON SPRING WILL COME AND LIFE RENEW

The world is still and quiet out

The trees their leaves are now without

Just sticks of gray and brown to see

And Winter now depresses me.

 

The flowers long ago did die

The leaves turned brown with somber sigh.

The silence of the falling snow

Has hushed the sound of plants that grow.

 

Alone and sad I now recall

The life I saw ‘fore leaves did fall.

In crushing pain I now await

The return of Spring’s appointed date.

 

A cluster of white oriental pear blossoms with pink stamens against a blue sky and out of focus pine tree behind the blossoms
Oriental pear blossoms

And then, oh joy, will life arise

The gift of God will feast my eyes

As gold, then green adorns the tree

And flowers in the meadows be.

 

Pink quince blossoms and pubescent new quince leaves
Quince blossoms

And though I know of winter’s need,

To rest the life and cool the seed,

I still rejoice when spring does show

And melt away the winter snow.

 

Fresh food I’ll have to please my taste

Such pleasure after winter’s wait.

A time of joy when life anew.

And Easter calls to mind the Truth.

 

Curtis

Photos

How to tell if seed are good

I often have seed left from previous years and wonder if they are viable.  Sometimes my plants will surprise me with seeds, but these seed often are not viable and do not grow.  Testing the ability of these seeds to germinate saves time and space in my garden.  Recently my gerbera daisy made seeds, so I tested them.  I also found some one-year old liatris seeds that I decided to test.

I put the seeds into sealable plastic bags on moistened paper towels, each type in separate bags:

Gerbera seed test
Liatris seed test

 

After a couple of weeks the liatris seed were sprouting, but there was no sign of growth in the gerbera seeds:

Liatris seedings closeup

I carefully removed the sprouted liatris seedlings from the moist paper towel and placed them into pots of potting soil:

Liatris seedlings and forceps ready for planting
Liatris seedling planted in potting soil

They are growing well and I will transplant them to the garden later in the spring, or give some to friends.

Aphid infestation reduced and returning to Kalanchoe

After treatment with Neem oil extract and Pyrethrin insecticides most of the aphids are gone, but there are new ones, especially young ones .  Repeated treatment is required in these situations. Rapidly reproducing pests such as aphids require one or two retreatments after a few days.

Kalanchoe
close-up of Kalanchoe

Photography reveals insect infestation

Today I decided to photograph the interesting flowers of my Bryophyllum pinnatum (Kalanchoe pinnatum). Upon looking at the photo immediately after taking the picture I discovered that the plant was infested with aphid insects. This is a benefit of digital cameras, you can immediately see the picture. This plant was in a south-facing (brightly lit) window behind other plants so that I could not easily get close enough to discover the insects. The camera proved extremely useful.

Bryophyllum pinnatum (Kalanchoe pinnatum) with aphid infestation

Southwest GardenSmith!

Welcome to Southwest GardenSmith.

The Southwestern U.S. is beautiful, full of history, and a challenging place to garden.  However, some things are best grown here; others are challenging, but worth growing.

New Mexico sunset

From the beautiful sunsets, to the beautiful flowers and hazardous spines of the cacti, to the delicious, fiery chile peppers this is a wonderful place to live.  To learn more about me visit my Welcome Page.