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Native Plants

January 12, 2010

 It’s spring, and in spite of the drought, some chaparral plants are bravely in bloom. One of the commonest is Purple Nightshade (Solanum xantii), named in honor of the same Xantus as Xantus’ murrelet. The genus Solanum is large, including  potato (Solanum tuberosum) and eggplant (Solanum melongena), as well as several more-or-less toxic species, of which Xanti is one.  The green berries are the most toxic part of  xanti.  I haven’t tasted the berries.

Douglas’s Nightshade, which has smaller, white blossoms, comes into bloom later and has shiny, black berries that are edible when fully ripe.

Don’t confuse “our” nightshade with the European occurrence, DEADLY NIGHTSHADE, which is in the genus Atropa, an entirely different family. As few as three berries of this plant could kill a small child. It’s not surprising that Deadly Nightshade is rarely grown in California.

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