Saturday, April 19, 2008

Devil’s Whiskers

Solanum mitchellianum
This is one of my favourite plants.
(I used to think that Solanum semiarmatum was one of my favourite plants, but I find that our local plant, which was once included in this name, has for some time been known to be different from the true “semiarmatum”, a plant which is now considered to be restricted to the Killarney, Queen Mary Falls area, Wilsons Peak, Lamington, and south to about Kyogle.
So the plant I know and love is actually Ssolanum mitchellianum.
(We sometimes do get irritated with the constant name changes imposed on us by botanists, but they are all part of the process of studying and recording Australian plants, a field that still has a lot of work to do before our huge native flora is really well-known.)
My thanks go to Ian Menkins of Oakey, a plant enthusiast with a wealth of knowledge about our local native plants, whose response to my initial blog enabled me to correct this entry.)

Devil’s whiskers - whatever its botanical name - is such an enthusiast! When it decided to be a prickly plant, it put its whole heart into the job.

It’s a plant of rainforest margins, and would do well as a garden subject.
I took all these photos yesterday, so you see that the flowers and fruits are on the plant at the same time.

Unfortunately there is some doubt about the wisdom of growing any of our native solanums in any garden where children might pick and eat the fruit. Like all solanums (including tomatoes) the green fruits are poisonous. The red fruits may be safe to eat, but until the plant is properly researched and its chemical components analysed, we just don’t know.They do look delicious, don’t they?

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