Solanum carolinense (horsenettle)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Solanum carolinense L. (1753)
Preferred Common Name
International Common Names
- English: apple of Sodom; ball nettle; ball nightshade; bullnettle; Carolina horsenettle; Carolina nettle; devil's potato; devil's tomato; sand brier; wild tomato
- Spanish: ortiga de caballo
- French: morelle de la Caroline
Local Common Names
- Germany: Carolina-Nachtschatten
- Japan: warunasubi
- SOLCA (Solanum carolinense)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Solanales
- Family: Solanaceae
- Genus: Solanum
- Species: Solanum carolinense
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
S. carolinense is divided into three varieties: var. carolinense, var. floridanum, and var. hirsutum. The distribution areas of var. floridanum and var. hirsutum are restricted to Florida and Georgia, and Alabama and Georgia, USA, respectively (USDA-NRCS, 1999).
The common name 'apple of Sodom' is also used for Solanum hermannii in New Zealand (Upritchard, 1986).
DescriptionTop of page
The stems of S. carolinense are angled at the nodes and are armed with sharp, stout, white or yellowish prickles, measuring up to 12 mm long. The stems are stellate-pubescent.
The leaves are alternate, simple and ovate to oblong in outline, with unevenly-lobed, toothed or deeply-cut margins. They are 4-14 cm long and about half as wide. Both surfaces are stellate-pubescent with yellowish hairs. There are sharp, yellow prickles on the veins, midrib and petioles.
The flowers resemble those of the potato and they are produced in secund racemes. The spineless calyx has five lobes with a sparse covering of hairs on its undersurface. The corolla is violet to whitish, with five lobes, and about 2-3 cm diameter. The flowers consist of five stamens, with prominent bright yellow anthers (6-9 mm long) in a cone surrounding the pistil.
The berries are globular, pulpy, juicy and smooth, each from 8 to 20 mm diameter. Immature berries are green, often with dark streaks. The mature berries are yellow, pale or yellowish-orange. A berry generally contains 40-170 seeds.
The seeds are obovate, flattened and slightly granulose. They are about 2-3 mm diameter and 0.5 mm thick. The mature seeds are pale to dark yellow, light brown or orange.
The hypocotyls of seedlings are often purple-tinged and covered with short, stiff hairs. The cotyledons are oval to oblong, about 1.2 mm long, hairy on the margins, glossy green on the upper surface and lighter below.
DistributionTop of page
It is thought to have been introduced into Japan about 100 years ago (Tsuji, 1906) and has spread over all of the islands.
S. carolinense has been recorded in New Zealand (Healy, 1982) but the weed may by now have been eradicated (Upritchard, 1986).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 12 May 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Georgia||Present||Original citation: Trapidze, 1972|
|Japan||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Kyushu||Present||Original citation: Osada et al., 1967|
|Croatia||Present||Original citation: Gazi Baskova & Segulja, 1978|
|Finland||Present, Transient under eradication|
|-Russian Far East||Present|
|Switzerland||Present, Transient under eradication|
|United Kingdom||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1977 (publication)|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Arizona||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-California||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Colorado||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Connecticut||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-District of Columbia||Present|
|-Florida||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Idaho||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Iowa||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Kansas||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Louisiana||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Maine||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Massachusetts||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Michigan||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Minnesota||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Mississippi||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Nebraska||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-New Hampshire||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-New Jersey||Present, Widespread|
|-New York||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-North Carolina||Present, Widespread|
|-Oklahoma||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Oregon||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Rhode Island||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-South Carolina||Present, Widespread|
|-South Dakota||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Texas||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Utah||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Vermont||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Washington||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-West Virginia||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
|-Wisconsin||Present||Original citation: USDA-NRCS and (1999)|
HabitatTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Camellia sinensis (tea)||Theaceae||Main|
|Cynodon dactylon (Bermuda grass)||Poaceae||Main|
|Dactylis glomerata (cocksfoot)||Poaceae||Main|
|Fragaria ananassa (strawberry)||Rosaceae||Main|
|Glycine max (soyabean)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Malus domestica (apple)||Rosaceae||Main|
|Medicago sativa (lucerne)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)||Poaceae||Main|
|Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Poa pratensis (smooth meadow-grass)||Poaceae||Main|
|Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Solanum tuberosum (potato)||Solanaceae||Main|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
S. carolinense grows well in sunny environments (Takematsu et al., 1979). The plant appears to thrive on sandy or gravelly soils, but will grow in any type of soil (Bradbury and Aldrich, 1957). Warm temperatures (Nishida et al., 1999a) and soil fertility favour growth. The plant has an extensive root system, and is drought tolerant (Bradbury and Aldrich, 1957). Roots are apparently susceptible to freezing temperatures; hence distribution in Canada is restricted to Ontario where deeply penetrating roots remain below the frost line; shoots are also killed by frost (Bassett and Munro, 1986).
S. carolinense blooms from early summer through autumn (Bassett and Munro, 1986; Nichols et al., 1991; Nishida and Harashima, 1995; Anderson, 1999). It is pollinated by bumble bees and carpenter bees (Hardin et al., 1972). The berries and seeds begin to mature by September (Bassett and Munro, 1986).
Both the vertical and horizontal roots have adventitious buds and very small root cuttings are capable of producing shoots. Ilnicki et al. (1962) reported that 10-cm root cuttings produced shoots at a planting depth of 40 cm, whereas 5-cm root cuttings produced shoots only at shallow planting depths (5 and 10 cm). Root cuttings appear to be susceptible to freezing temperatures (Bassett and Munro, 1986; Wehtje et al., 1987). Ilnicki et al. (1962) found that no shoots were produced from root cuttings that were exposed on the soil surface for 3 days.
Solomon (1983a) studied autoallelopathy in S. carolinense seed germination. Germination of S. carolinense seeds was inhibited by the incorporation of stem, root and leaf material into soil. The potency of the inhibition decreased with time and could be reversed by washing the inhibited seeds and replanting them in fresh soil. This appears to demonstrate that autoallelopathy in this species can result in density-dependant regulation of population size.
Takahashi et al. (1995) reported that an aqueous extract of S. carolinense considerably reduced the growth of lettuce seedlings. Wiepke and Glenn (1982) reported that S. carolinense extract in ethanol negatively affected the germination of turnip, and the growth of maize and soyabean radicles.
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
In Japan, adults and larvae of Epilachna vigintioctopunctata feed on S. carolinense throughout the growing season, over a course of two generations (Imura, 1999). The beetle seriously infests leaves, flowers and fruits, causing defoliation in the autumn. Adults and larvae of Acanthocoris sordidus infest stems of S. carolinense gregariously.
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
S. carolinense is disseminated by seeds, roots and root cuttings. Natural dispersal on a small scale could occur via seed dissemination. Horizontal roots can extend several metres from the taproot (Kiltz, 1930) and contribute to small-scale dissemination.
The seeds can maintain viability after passing through the digestive tract of cattle (Nishida et al., 1998), horses, pigs or sheep (Muensher, 1955). Ilinicki et al. (1962) mentioned that the berries may be eaten by farm animals and the seeds subsequently scattered over large areas in animal droppings.
Tillage of fields infested with S. carolinense promotes the dissemination of the plant by cutting the roots and dragging them elsewhere (Urakawa, 2000), provided that other favourable conditions such as good weather conditions, less competitive crop plants and ineffective weed control are available. Harvesting operations may transport mature berries to other places, which also encourages dissemination.
Movement in Trade
Large-scale dissemination can occur by the contamination of a crop or commercial seeds with S. carolinense seeds. S. carolinense is thought to have been introduced to Japan from the USA via contamination of pasture plant seeds (Tsuji, 1906; Ono, 1965) and in fodder crop (Nishida and Shimizu, 1999) but there is no definite evidence to support this theory.
ImpactTop of page
S. carolinense is listed as a noxious weed under the Seeds Act and Regulation administered by Agriculture Canada (Bassett and Munro, 1986). It is also listed in the Noxious Seeds Act of Manitoba.
This species is a declared noxious weed and/or noxious-weed seed in 38 states of the USA (USDA, ARS, NGRP, http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?100938).
S. carolinense is classed as one of the 10 most troublesome pasture weeds in the south-eastern USA (Smith and Calvert, 1980).
The plant causes yield losses due to its competition with crops. The presence of S. carolinense fruits in groundnut harvests affects the grade or quality assigned to the groundnuts (Woodruff, 1966).
Frank (1990) reported that S. carolinense grown for 3 years and 1 year prior to planting snapbeans (Phaseolus vulgaris), reduced yield by 48-65% and 18-20%, respectively. Hackett et al. (1987) observed that maintaining a weed-free environment for 2 or more weeks in a field previously infested with S. carolinense permitted an increase in the yield of runner-type groundnuts.
S. carolinense contains solanin and is poisonous to cattle, horses and sheep when ingested (Kingsbury, 1964). Carlisle et al. (1980) reported that S. carolinense contained a potentially toxic level of nitrate.
S. carolinense is also an important alternate host for insect pests of crop plants such as the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) (McIndoo, 1935) and the pepper maggot (Zonosemata electa) (Foott, 1963). It is also host for the potato psyllid (Paratrioza cockerelli [Bactericera cockerelli]), which transmits psyllid yellow disease to potatoes and tomatoes (Wallis, 1951), tomato leafspot fungus (Septoria lycopersici) (Pritchard and Porte, 1921) and several viruses (Weinbaum and Milbrath, 1976; Ramsdell and Myers, 1978).
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Host of pest
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Solanum dimidiatum is very similar to S. carolinense, though larger (Wehtje et al., 1987). The extent of the distribution of S. dimidiatum in the USA is lower than that of S. carolinense (USDA-NRCS, 1999). In many ways, S. dimidiatum seems to be an intermediary between S. carolinense and Solanum melongena (D'Arcy, 1974). It is distinct in its showy, deep-coloured flowers (deep mauve or blue, 3-4 cm diameter) and in its large, hard, yellow fruits. Fewer than 12 seeds are produced, twisted and packed due to the constraint of the stony endcarp.
Solanum aculeatissimum is also similar to S. carolinense, but prickles are present on the calyx of S. aculeatissimum. The immature berries of this species are white and the mature berries vermillion. The seeds are winged.
Physalis subglabrata [P. longifolia var. subglabrata] and Physalis heterophylla resemble S. carolinense, but do not have the conspicuous prickles on the stems and leaves (Uva et al., 1997). The berries of P. longifolia var. subglabrata and P. heterophylla are enclosed by an inflated, papery membrane.
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
As it is very difficult to control well-entrenched infestations of S.carolinense, prevention of its establishment is the most important and efficient means of control. Animal wastes which may contain viable seeds of S. carolinense should be treated before being used as manure. S. carolinense seeds lose viability when exposed to temperatures of 55 and 60°C for 72 h and 24 h, respectively (Nishida et al., 1999b). These temperatures and durations are considered adequate if the animal waste is fermented properly.
Ilnicki et al. (1962) reported that clipping the top growth, at least in July and August, prevented S. carolinense from producing viable seeds. As S. carolinense has an extensive root system and small root cuttings can produce shoots, tillage is believed to enhance the spread of the weed (Ilnicki et al., 1962; Takematsu et al., 1979; Smith and Calvert, 1980). However, S. carolinense has been reported to have become prevalent in conservation tillage systems (Burnside, 1981; Elmore et al., 1984). Young S. carolinense plants which sprout from root cuttings may be more susceptible to suppression by crop plants, and chemical and cultural control than well established plants. Muensher (1955) mentioned that a rotation which includes a clean cultivated crop every few years may reduce the presence of the weed, if the scattered plants appearing after the cultivation are hoed or pulled out.
Regehr and Janssen (1989) observed that the S. carolinense population declined significantly in ridge-till systems of a soyabean and sorghum rotation with herbicide treatments.
Izhevskii et al. (1981) studied the integrated control of S. carolinense using Tobacco mosaic virus str. Alke (TMV) and herbicides. The application of TMV to S. carolinense prior to or during early bud formation gave satisfactory control of the weed in tea plantations. A prior herbicide treatment is recommended to reduce the leaf surface area of other weeds, and to ensure that the virus spray is deposited only on S. carolinense leaves.
S. carolinense is susceptible to a wide range of herbicides. Some are effective in the short term, while others demonstrate long-term effectiveness.
Albert (1960) concluded that in a pasture of Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), the summertime application of 2,4-D over a course of several years would be practical, although the Ontario Weed Committee lists S. carolinense as resistant to 2,4-D (Bassett and Munro, 1986). Foliar application of picloram in summer is very effective in controlling the root system and shoots of S. carolinense. However, picloram poses a greater problem with persistence and its potential dispersion in the environment. Triclopyr, which is as effective as picloram when used at higher rates, may be appropriate for use in controlling S. carolinense in pastures (Gorrell et al., 1981).
Glyphosate is most effective when applied during the fruit-bearing period (Banks et al., 1977; Nashiki et al., 1985). Whitwell et al. (1980) reported that a high temperature (32°C) resulted in more effective injury to the shoot but a low temperature (13°C) during glyphosate treatment resulted in much less regrowth.
In maize, post-emergence application of dicamba may be advisable (Prostko et al., 1994).
Talbert et al. (1982) reported that spot applications of acifluorfen were effective in controlling S. carolinensis and minimized potential damage to developing strawberry buds, although repeated applications at 2 to 3 week intervals were required.
In groundnuts, subsurface layered dinitramine or post-emergence 2,4-DB application provided acceptable levels of control (Banks and Samtelmann, 1978; Hackett et al., 1987).
S. carolinense is also suceptible to amitrole (Albert, 1960), silvex [fenoprop], terbacil (Pagano, 1975) and maleic hydrazide (Takematsu et al., 1979). The seedlings are suceptible to atrazine, cloransulam and metribuzin (Vangessel, 1999).
When herbicides are used, it is necessary to adhere to local restrictions and regulations governing herbicide use.
ReferencesTop of page
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