This weed-like herb is a member of the family Solanaceae and the genus Solanum (Natural History Museum, n.d.; Royal Horticultural Society, n.d.). This group of plants is otherwise known as the potato or nightshade family (Armstrong, 2008). This genus contains some of the world’s most important edible plants in agriculture including the potato, tomato and eggplant (Armstrong, 2008). The other half of the plants within this genus are poisonous, receiving the name “nightshade” (Armstrong, 2008). This species belongs to a group within the genus known as the “spiny” Solanum (Leptostemonum) (Natural History Museum, n.d.). This name is attributed to spikes which appear on both sides of the leaves and the stem (Natural History Museum, n.d.). These prickles are a form of modified epidermis (Natural History Museum, n.d.). Additionally, this plant has tiny hairs which cover the entire plant, giving rise to the common name “sticky nightshade” (Natural History Museum, n.d.).
Solanum sisymbriifolium has flowers that are white with five yellow anthers in the center (Natural History Museum, n.d.). The fruits are covered by a prickly casing known as the calyx and as the fruit ripens, the calyx dries up and peels back to reveal the bright red, fleshy fruit (Natural History Museum, n.d.). This fruit is eaten by birds and other animals which help to disperse seeds (Natural History Museum, n.d.).
Sticky nightshade is originally native to the southern portion of South America, but it now found worldwide (Natural History Museum, n.d.). This species grows specifically in select southern coastal states, and around the Great Lakes in Canada (Natural History Museum, n.d.; United States Department of Agriculture, n.d.). This species can be found in both dry and subtropical climates, as it has the ability to thrive anywhere which fruits and seeds can spread before being killed by frost (Natural History Museum, n.d.).
The plant has a growth pattern similar to a dandelion. Due to high dispersal and fast growth, this plant has the ability to quickly take over newly disturbed areas which are less crowded by other plants (Natural History Museum, n.d.). This fast dispersal mechanism makes this species particularly troublesome in cattle-pastures in southern South America (Natural History Museum, n.d.).
Recent studies involving the species have examined the potential for its used as a trap crop in Europe for controlling the potato cyst nematode (Natural History Museum, n.d.; Timmermans, 2007). The nematode is a parasite that reproduces in the soil and feeds on the roots of potato (Timmermans, 2007). The female nematode dies at the end of the reproductive season, and her body forms a cyst structure where juvenile nematodes grow with the host potato plant and eventually hatch (Timmermans, 2007). These parasites are able to remain in the cyst without a host plant for up to twenty years (Timmermans, 2007). The sticky nightshade, which is resistant to nematode, has been found to effectively stimulate nematode hatching up to 77% (Timmermans, 2007). When the nematodes hatch, they eat the roots of this plant which are poisonous, therefore clearing the soil of the parasite so that further cultivation is possible (Natural History Museum, n.d.; Timmermans, 2007).
Armstrong, W. P. (2008). Tomato, Tomatillo, Eggplant, Nipplefruit & Chayote: Nightshade Family (Solanaceae). Wayne’s World. Retrieved from: http://waynesword.palomar.edu/ecoph21.htm
Natural History Museum. Solanum sisymbriifolium: Biology, Ecology and Distribution, and Taxonomy. Retrieved from: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/collections/collecting/solanum-sisymbriifolium/biology/index.html
Royal Horticultural Society. Solanum sisymbriifolium: Red Buffalo Burr. Retrieved from: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/42062/i-Solanum-sisymbriifolium-i/Details
Timmermans, J. Vos, J Neiuwburg, T. Stomph, P Van der Putten, P. Molendijk. Field performance of Solanum sisymbriifolium, a trap crop for potato cyst nematodes. I. Dry matter accumulation in relation to sowing time, location, season and plant density. Annals of Applied Biology. 2007: 150(1) p88-89. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7348.2006.00112.x
United States Department of Agriculture. Solanum sisymbriifolium: Sticky Nightshade. Retrieved from: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SOSI