Ontario Weeds: Horse-nettle

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Excerpt from Publication 505, Ontario Weeds, Order this publication

Table of Contents

  1. Name
  2. Other Names
  3. Family
  4. General Description
  5. Stems and Roots
  6. Flowers and Fruit
  7. Habitat
  8. Similar Species
  9. Related Links

Name: Horse-nettle, Solanum carolinense L.,

Other Names: morelle de la Caroline, ortie de la Caroline

Family: Nightshade or Potato Family (Solanaceae

General Description: Perennial, reproducing by seed and by underground rhizomes.

Photos and Pictures

Horse nettle

Horse nettle

Horse-nettle. A. Top of plant.
Horse-nettle.
A. Top of plant.
B. Portion of horizontal rhizome producing new aboveground shoot.
B. Portion of horizontal rhizome producing new aboveground shoot.

Stems & Roots: Stems erect, 60-100cm (24-40in.) high, with a few branches near the top, covered with tiny, star-shaped hairs, each having 1 point longer than the rest (visible only with magnification), and scattered, long, hard, sharp spines often 5mm (1/5in.) long; leaves alternate (1 per node), elliptic in outline but shallowly to deeply lobed with 2 to 5 rounded or sharp-pointed lobes on each side, finely hairy on both surfaces with star-shaped hairs plus several, long, hard spines, at least on the underside along the midrib and main veins.

Flowers & Fruit: Flowers arranged in 1 or more short racemes at the ends and sides of branches in the upper part, corolla pale purplish to white, 1.5-2cm (3/5-4/5in.) across, with 5 stamens joined in a central column about 6mm (¼in.) long; berry smooth, yellow at maturity and about 1.5cm (3/5in.) in diameter. Flowers from July until autumn.

Habitat: Horse-nettle is found in scattered localities throughout southern Ontario, usually in sandy soils, in grainfields, pastureland, waste areas and occasionally in gardens.

Similar Species: It is distinguished by its harshly spiny stems and leaves, lobed leaves, large, white to purplish flowers, smooth yellow berries, and its spreading perennial rhizomes which enable this plant to form thick patches.

Related Links

... on general Weed topics
... on weed identification, order OMAFRA Publication 505: Ontario Weeds
... on weed control, order OMAFRA Publication 75: Guide To Weed Control

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