Devil’s apple is a poisonous weed from Africa.
Called Devil’s apple because of its toxic yellow fruit, Solanum linnaeanum made an appearance under my almond tree. When I went to pull it out, I discovered its substantial thorns.
Considered an invasive in Australia, Devil’s apple has been getting a lot of press lately. Dramatic statements declare that Solanum linnaeanum can cure skin cancer. And I could not find a single piece of scientific evidence to back up those claims. Hmmm. Yet another snake oil salesman… Why do we tolerate all those untruths?
The truth about Devil’s apple is interesting enough on its own, so let’s learn what we can.
Devil’s apple is a member of the nightshade family, along with potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. These shrubs can reach 6 feet in height, and those spines can be 1/2 an inch long. I sure wouldn’t want to fall into one of those bushes!
Also known as apple of Sodom, Afghan thistle, and Dead Sea apple, this weed invades pastures, agricultural fields, roadsides, and now, my yard.
The yellow berries start out as a star-shaped, 5-petaled purple flower, the way most nightshades do, but then they start looking more like a small apple, hence the name. The fruit changes from white or green to bright yellow and it contains toxic alkaloids. DO NOT EAT THEM!!!
Devil’s apple is also host to the Malaysian Fruit Fly, which earns it a listing in the California Code of Regulations, as part of the state’s emergency eradication program. Other than that reference, I have not been able to find any mention of the plant in California, so I have submitted an information request to local Master Gardeners and UC Davis to see if this is a new weed in the Bay Area. I’ll keep you posted.
For the time being, if you see one of these in your garden or landscape, dig it out.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!