Horsenettle Solanum carolinense L.
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade family)
Life cycle: Perennial, reproducing by seed, rhizomes and adventitious buds on roots.
Habitat: Crop fields, pastures
Native status: Native to North America
General description: Erect, branched plant reaching heights of 2 to 3 ft. Stems have sharp spines. Leaves are egg shaped with wavy margins or 2 to 5 shallow lobes; sharp spines on bottom of leaf midrib. Flowers occur in clusters, five fused white to violet petals with a cone of bright yellow stamens. Fruit are smooth yellow berries (1/2 in diameter).
Key ID traits: Spines on stems and underside of leaf midribs. Horsenettle, like many members of the Solanacea family, frequently have many small holes in leaves caused by flea beetle feeding. The yellow berries often remain on the plant throughout the winter, allowing easy ID.
Similar species: The general growth habit is similar to the ground cherry species, but the spines on horsenettle make identification easy.
Miscellaneous: Like most members of the Solanaceae family, all plant parts contain toxic alkaloids. The spines on stems and leaves reduce feeding by grazing animals, so toxic responses are rare.