Horse Nettle

By William T. Hathaway

Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense)

The horse nettle is a member of the nightshade family. Its violet or white flowers appear in May through September. This species is recognized for its orange-yellow berries that hang on well into winter seasons.

Hunters and hikers are often curious about these berries, since they are commonly scattered throughout Pittsylvania County. It is generally known that these orange-yellow berries should not be tasted, and such information is likely to have been handed down from hunter to hunter or parent to children. In their book, Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants (Second Edition, Duke University Press, Durham, N. C., 1974), authors James W. Hardin and Jay M. Arena, M.D., report that “A child died a few years ago in Philadelphia from eating the berries.”