Jamaican nightshade (Solanum jamaicense Mill.) is member of the family Solanaceae, native to the Neotropics. The first report in Florida is a specimen collected near St. Cloud (Osceola Co.) in 1930. Current voucher specimens report S. jamaicense in Osceola, Polk, Orange, Highlands and St. Lucie counties. There is no information on how the plant arrived in Florida, although D’Arcy (1974) speculated that seeds may have been transported by birds from the Antilles.
Mature S. jamaicense plants are perennial shrubs with erect stems 1.5 to 3m tall and up to 15 cm in diameter at the base. The stem and veins have recurved prickles up to 1 cm long. Leaves are subsessile, 5 to 20 cm long, 4 to 15 cm wide, pubescent, covered with stellate trichomes. Inflorescences are lateral racemes with 3 to 10 flowers, peduncules and pedicles pubescent 5 to 20 mm long. Flowers small with a white corolla. Fruits are berries, 0.5 to 1.0 cm in diameter, green while immature and bright red at maturity. Seeds are small, ca. 1 mm.
There are no studies that quantify the impact of S. jamaicense in Florida hammocks. However, invaded hammocks exhibit a clear displacement of understory vegetation, blockage of corridors due to accumulation of large thorny stems, and large accumulation of biomass. Severe infestations of S. jamaicense were observed inside and in the immediate periphery of hardwood hammocks in St. Lucie Co. Additionally, some isolated patches were growing in the open pasture demonstrating that S. jamaicense colonization is not limited to hammocks. It appears that frugivorous birds are a major dispersal mechanism of S. jamaicense in the native range.
D’Arcy, W. G. 1974. Solanum and its close relatives in Florida. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 61: 818-867.
Refer theUF/IFAS Invasive Species Management Plans for Florida to learn more about Solanum spp. management.
Photographs, line drawing and content were kindly provided by William Overholt and Rodrigo Diaz with the UF/IFAS Biological Control Research & Containment Laboratory.
1. Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition, by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Publication # SP 257. 2008.