Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Carolina horsenettle

Full disclosure: today's featured wildflower is on Iowa's noxious weed list under the name "horse nettle." However, Carolina horsenettle is native to most of the United States, including Iowa. A few photos of this flower in bloom are after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The scientific name for Carolina horsenettle, also known as bull nettle and devil's tomato, is Solanum carolinense. The U.S. Wildflowers website notes,

Not a true nettle, this is a member of the nightshade genus which includes the garden tomato. The Solanaceae family includes the Irish potato. In spite of the edible cousins, do not eat any part of this plant; as with most nightshades it is highly poisonous.

Bleeding Heartland featured another nightshade last month. Carolina horsenettle blossoms are a similar shape, with curved petals joined at the base to form a star, and the stamens sticking out like a yellow "beak." The Carolina horsenettle flowers are larger than the black nightshade flowers, though, and are usually white.

Carolina horsenettle, Carolina horsenettle with partridge pea and plains coreopsis, blooming in central Iowa, August 2012

The yellow and red flowers near the top of that photo are plains coreopsis, which Bleeding Heartland featured in June. The yellow flowers closer to the center of the picture are partridge pea, which Bleeding Heartland covered here.

I took these pictures in a new prairie patch, planted in Windsor Heights this summer as part of an Eagle Scout project. Since that time, the patch has been mowed, but you can still see wildflowers scattered around the field just north of the bike trail, behind the "Sherwood Forest" strip mall on Hickman. Here are a couple of other shots with Carolina horsenettle, partridge pea, and plains coreopsis.

Iowa prairie flowers, Carolina horsenettle, partridge pea and plains coreopsis blooming in central Iowa, August 2012

Iowa prairie flowers (2), Carolina horsenettle, partridge pea and plains coreopsis blooming in central Iowa, August 2012

I haven't been able to identify the tiny white flowers in those photos, and I'm not sure whether they are native Iowa plants. Anyone know what they are? You can see them a bit better in this shot.

Coreopsis with small white flowers, Plains coreopsis with unidentified white flower blooming in central Iowa, August 2012

Tags: Wildflowers
  • Native mysteries

    Carolina horse nettle is indeed considered native to Iowa by many sources. However, I was told by a botanist years ago that it may not really be native to Iowa and may have traveled here along with livestock. That is what the Wiki info about it seems to indicate, that it is actually native to the Southeastern U.S. and spread from there.

    This is also an example of why the Iowa noxious weed list should be created by expert professionals and NOT by the Iowa Legislature, as is currently the case. The current noxious list is bizarre. As one example, it includes a couple of native thistle species that are on the state special-concern/threatened/endangered list. Having Carolina horse nettle on the same list as major threats like multiflora rose is absurd.

    One reason the Iowa noxious weed list hasn't been brought up for reform and updating, as many professionals know it should be, is because of fear that the Legislature could easily make the list worse instead of better. Unfortunately, that fear is justified.

Login or Join to comment and post.