Weed of the Month: Horsenettle

Horsenettle grows most often in poorly managed pastures.

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Common name: Horsenettle
Scientific name: Solanum carolinense L.

Life Cycle: Warm season perennial
Origin: Southeastern North America
Poisonous: Yes

Horsenettle is distributed widely across most of the United States, especially in the eastern half and the western coastal states. This relatively low-growing perennial is easily recognized by its erect to spreading growth habit.

The stems and leaves contain sharp prickles that inhibit grazing and make hand-weeding undesirable. Horsenettle flowers are white to a pale violet with yellow anthers. Seeds are encased in a berry that is initially green but turns bright yellow at maturity. The berry might persist for several months before decomposing to release the seeds. Horsenettle also reproduces from spreading, fleshy rhizomes. This weed grows most often in poorly managed pastures.

Horsenettle control is challenging, and mowing is generally ineffective. Herbicides are available to provide effective control when applied in August and September. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Service personnel for herbicidal control in your area.

William W. Witt, PhD, a professor emeritus, in plant and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky, provided this information.

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