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Carolina horsenettle

Carolina horsenettle

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
Species: S. carolinense
Binomial name
Solanum carolinense

Carolina horsenettle (Solanum carolinense), also known as Bull nettle, Carolina horse nettle, Horse nettle, Apple of Sodom, Radical Weed, Sand Brier and, Tread-softly, is not a true nettle, but a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. It is known for producing painful spines along the stems that penetrate the skin and break off. It is a perennial, herbaceous plant native to southeastern United States that has spread widely throughout North America.


Leaves are alternate, elliptic-oblong to oval, and each is irregularly lobed or coarsely toothed. Both surfaces are covered with fine hairs. The flowers have five petals and are usually white or purple with yellow centers, though there is a blue variant that resembles the tomato flower. The fruits also resemble tomatoes. The immature fruit is dark green with light green stripes, turning yellow and wrinkled as it matures. Each fruit contains around 60 seeds. It flowers throughout the summer, from April to October.

All parts of the plant are poisonous. Children and cattle have been poisoned by eating the green fruit. The mature fruit is reputedly non-poisonous or less poisonous.

These plants can be found growing in pastures, roadsides, railroad margins, and in disturbed areas and waste ground. They grow to about 1 m tall, but are typically shorter, existing as subshrubs. They prefer sandy or loamy soils.

Carolina horsenettle is considered a noxious weed in several US states. It can spread vegetatively by underground rhizomes as well as by seed. It is resistant to many herbicides; in fact, herbicide use often selects for horsenettle by removing competing weeds. It is an especially despised weed by gardeners who hand weed as the spines tend to penetrate the skin and then break off when the plant is grasped. The deep root also makes it difficult to remove.

Horsenettle is also written "horse nettle" or "horse-nettle", though USDA publications usually use horsenettle. Other common names include Wild tomato, Devil's tomato and Sand Briar.



  • Solanum carolinense information with several excellent pictures.
  • Carolina Horse Nettle
  • Solanum carolinense L. on Solanaceae Source - Full list of scientific synonyms. Descriptions, images, specimens and identification keys coming soon!
  • Scientific names matching the epithet carolinense on Solanaceae Source - Full list of Solanum species and infraspecies names which include carolinense as the specific epithet. Taxonomic status of each name is also shown along with any synonyms.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Carolina_horsenettle". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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