Aug 9, 2015

The Devil's Tomato

About 13 years ago, a nasty weed came up in my flower bed.  I went to pull it out and a thorn penetrated my glove and pierced the skin.  That made me mad, "This is my garden!"  I declared and went after it again, albeit a bit more carefully this time.  I pulled it up but I could tell I hadn't got all the roots.  This weed was like a mythological hydra, and grew back 7 more plants!  I dug deep but couldn't find the source.  It laughed at Round Up.  I nicknamed it "The Devil's Weed".

Solanum carolinense - Devil's Tomato
Turns out, everything about this deep rooted pest is poisonous - including the thorns which made the joint sore on my pricked finger.  I battled this thing for a decade.  Finally, I set out to find out what it actually was in hopes of final eradication; Solanum carolinense aka Carolina Horsenettle aka Devil's Tomato.  A nasty thing with a tap root that can grow quite deep and spreads underground by rhizomes and seeds.  Now that I understood it, I was going to tackle it from a new angle - a full size shovel.

I dug huge holes in my garden, but cutting the roots made it spread and any tiny piece of root took hold in the lawn and in the surrounding area.  Finally, I just started pinching it off and throwing away the little shoots.  After a year, what comes up is small and easily dealt with - I keep after it.

Today, when I was clearing out five or six tiny shoots I realized that in many ways this weed is like sin in our lives.  It springs up out of nowhere, it's difficult to kill, it spreads when you least expect it, deep digging won't always eradicate it permanently, and to keep it under control you have to be vigilant and nip it when they are tiny and throw them in the trash.