From the time I can remember, we were warned not to touch, never mid eat, the delicious looking shiny yellow globose berries of what we called ‘snake apples’ – an epithet that drummed into us that these enticing berries are poisonous. For years I held a private belief that it must have been an apple like this that Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. Growing up as I did in the Lowveld, the only ‘real’ apples I saw came in a box individually wrapped in squares of purple tissue paper – that was a long time ago.

The Silver-leaf Bitter Apple or Silver-leaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is most aptly named Satansbos in Afrikaans (the bush of Satan – so our calling it a snake apple wasn’t far off) and the fruits are indeed toxic. Originating in the south-western parts of the United States of America and northern Mexico, it is a weed that has proved to be particularly difficult to get rid of because of its spreading root system. The earliest record of this plant in the National Herbarium is dated 1952.

In the photograph above, you can see the wavy linear to oblong leaves folded upwards along their midribs, as well as the attractive looking fruit. The sharp-eyed among you might also recognise the tiny yellow seed heads of Blackjacks in this photograph too – another invasive weed!


  1. We have a few invasive solanums here in SA. I was also brought up to regard those yellow fruits as something nasty.
    I enjoyed your recollection of eating apples wrapped in squares of purple tissue paper – something I had forgotten about.


  2. This plant, being in the nightshade family and with golden fruits, brought to mind the ground cherries or Cape Gooseberries as I think you call them ? that I was introduced to last year. Right away I went online and ordered some seeds. I had completely forgotten my resolve at that time to grow them.

    I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the silver leaf nightshade, at least when it is fruiting. In general it looks like a plant to avoid! But I’m glad it led my mind to a much friendlier and tastier cousin.


    • Me too! I hope what we call Cape Gooseberries do well in your garden. Some years they grow in abundance and others, like now after months of drought, there are only a couple of plants that have seeded themselves in odd nooks of the garden. I am leaving them in situ and await their delicious berries that will be enough for me and the birds to enjoy later on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently read that the Solanum nigrum which looks similar (msobo in Zulu), is used to make a jam and ice cream topping. The fruits are only used when ripe and purple as they are also poisonous when still green. I wonder if the same applies to the one you describe Anne.


    • It must be akin to mushroom fundis: unless your REALLY know your mushrooms, don’t pick them to eat in the wild. I certainly wouldn’t take any chances with any Solanums.

      Liked by 1 person

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