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!