Can you identify this plant?
December 30, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Can you identify this plant?

I recently moved into a new place with a very large garden. The grounds are weeded over somewhat, and I'm making a concerted effort to de-weed everything and pull out things that are encroaching where they shouldn't be.

This plant grows at the back of the house, from underneath the back porch steps. I have no idea what it is. If it's a weed it's coming out.

posted by New England Cultist to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Judging by the flowers, it's a member of the nightshade family. Not sure which one, though.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Where are you located?
posted by jquinby at 3:06 PM on December 30, 2012

Mexican Petunia
posted by raildr at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2012

No, I think mudpuppie is dead on with the nightshade. It looks very much like Solanum laciniatum, or Kangaroo Apple.
posted by jquinby at 3:17 PM on December 30, 2012

I think mudpuppie has it. I'd say it's of the Solanum genus--New Zealand/Black nightshade or San Diego/chaparral nightshade.
posted by xyzzy at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2012

Solanum aviculare?
posted by Solomon at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: New Zealand!
posted by New England Cultist at 3:29 PM on December 30, 2012

Best answer: Regarding your question about whether it's a weed or not -- the answer is 'it depends.' Plants in the solanum family are often planted as ornamentals because of the pretty flowers. I have a love/hate relationship with the one I planted a few years ago. The flowers are pretty, but you have to prune it a certain way so that it doesn't get leggy. (I didn't, and it's now a foe.)

You could keep it if you like it, but under the back steps is by no means the best place for it -- it will want to grow tall. And if you have kids, you might just go ahead and dispense with it. The berries, like many (but not all!) nightshade fruits, are poisonous.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:47 PM on December 30, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks mudpuppie. No kids, though we have cats. I'll admit, it does look pretty when flowering, but whether that's worth keeping it around for the rest of the year - not too sure about that.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:09 PM on December 30, 2012

Best answer: It's native to you, and here in California people buy it and plant it as an ornamental (S. lacinatum and S. aviculare are closely related and/or the same thing, depending who you ask). You might want to keep it:

Surveys identified Solanum aviculare as uncommon and rare, existing mainly as single plants or small groups in the majority of areas surveyed. The Threatened and Uncommon Plant listing of Solanum aviculare as an 'at risk declining' species is confirmed and a further Recommendation category proposed. Ecological decline and corresponding decline in cultural use and knowledge of Solanum aviculare was identified through specialist interviews; appearing to be related to removal from Māori of control over their land.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:32 PM on December 31, 2012

Response by poster: Hey oneirodynia - thanks for that. Well, I might have to think twice about taking it out now. Maybe I'll just move it to a different part of the garden.
posted by New England Cultist at 9:57 AM on January 1, 2013

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