Fact Sheets


Solanum carolinense L.

Family :

Famille :


Synonym(s) :

Synonyme(s) :

Solanum carolinense L. var. carolinense                          (USDA-ARS 2022)
Solanum carolinense L. var. albiflorum Kuntze                 (USDA-ARS 2022)

Common Name(s) :

Nom(s) commun(s) :

Horse nettle
(English) (GC 2016)

Ball nettle (English) (GC 2016; CABI 2022)

Morelle de la Caroline (French) (GC 2016; CABI 2022)

Carolina horsenettle (English) (CABI 2022)

Bullnettle (English) (CABI 2022)

Ortiga de caballo (Spanish) (CABI 2022)

  • Horse nettle (Ball nettle) (Solanum carolinense) seeds

  • Horse nettle (Ball nettle) (Solanum carolinense) seeds

  • Horse nettle (Ball nettle) (Solanum carolinense) seed

  • Solanum carolinense seeds, hilum variation

  • Solanum carolinense berry

  • Solanum carolinense berry

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Regulation :

Remarques Réglementation:

  • CFIA Weed Seeds Order - Class 2: Primary Noxious Weed Seeds
  • ​Quarantine lists of countries e.g. China *may be updated without notice
  • Quarantine lists of countries e.g. India *may be updated without notice
  • Quarantine lists of countries e.g. Mexico *may be updated without notice
  • USA Federal Noxious Weed Seed List

Regulation Notes:

Distribution :

Répartition :

Native to eastern North America, from Ontario to northern Mexico, and introduced in Japan and India (Bassett and Munro 1986; CABI 2022; USDA-ARS 2022). Occurs in the following Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec (Brouillet et al. 2010+).

Habitat and Crop Association :

Habitat et Cultures Associées :

Cultivated fields, pastures, gardens, nurseries, riverbanks, roadsides and disturbed areas (Bassett and Munro 1986; Darbyshire 2003). Most frequently found in Zea mays (corn) and grain fields, to a lesser extent in pastures, Medicago sativa (alfalfa), Solanum tuberosum (potatoes), Glycine max (soybeans) and Solanum lycopersicum (tomatoes) (Bassett and Munro 1986).

Economic Use, cultivation area, and Weed Association :

Utilisation économique, zone de culture et association de mauvaises herbes :

Duration of Life Cycle :

Durée du cycle vital:


Dispersal Unit Type :

Type d’unité de dispersion :


General Information


Solanum carolinense may produce up to 5000 seeds per plant. Seeds are believed to be spread through mammal ingestion and excretion and can also germinate from inside whole or broken fruit buried up to 2.5 cm (Bassett and Munro 1986). Solanine chemicals in fresh or dried berries has been reported to have poisoned and killed cows, calves and sheep (Bassett and Munro 1986). The seeds can remain viable for up to 7 years when stored in a laboratory (Bassett and Munro 1986).

S. carolinense also reproduces vegetatively by shoots from horizontal roots (Bassett and Munro 1986). This species has an extensive root system made up of vertical taproots that can grow down over 3 m and horizontal roots that can extend up to 1 m away from the plant (Bassett and Munro 1986; CABI 2021).

Root cuttings as small as 2 mm can produce new plants, and this may indicate S. carolinense can be propagated from root pieces following field tillage (Bassett and Munro 1986). The horizontal roots and shoots are sensitive to frost, and restricts the plant to areas where the roots remain below the frostline (Bassett and Munro 1986; CABI 2022).


Solanum carolinense plant (James H. Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org)



  • Berry


    • Berry diameter: 10 – 20 mm (Bassett and Munro 1986)


    • Berry is globose (Bassett and Munro 1986)

    Surface Texture

    • Berry surface is smooth (Bassett and Munro 1986)


    • Berry is shiny light yellow, yellow or yellowish-orange when mature (Bassett and Munro 1986; CABI 2022)
    • Immature berries are green with dark green streaks (CABI 2022)

    Other Features

    • Calyx of berry with 5 lobes, not spiny, length: 6 – 7 mm (Bassett and Munro 1986)
  • Seed


    • Seed length*: 1.7 – 2.8 mm; width: 1.4 – 2.1 mm
    *Note: minimum and maximum of 20 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)


    • Seed is oval shaped or D-shaped, flattened in edge view

    Surface Texture

    • Seed surface is covered by a wavy grooved reticulation, strongest around the edge of the seed and becoming faint towards the centre


    • Seeds shiny yellow, orange, brownish-orange, or light brown coloured

    Other Features

    Hilum and Hilum area

    • Hilum is along the narrow edge of the seed near one end
    • Hilum is teardrop-shaped and is often open or filled with tissue
    • Hilum area is generally straight or curved along the edge of the seed
  • Embryo


    • Embryo partially fills the seed


    • Embryo is circular


    • Endosperm is soft and translucent white

    Other Features

    • Embryo is in a peripheral position in the seed

Identification Tips


D-shaped seeds that are compressed or flattened in edge view is a common seed shape in the Solanaceae. The combination of relatively large seeds, shiny yellow or orange colour, wavy grooved reticulation with flush interspaces is characteristic of this species. Seeds in other Solanum species generally are a smaller size and have ridged reticulation with concave interspaces.


Additional Botany Information



  • Flower diameter: 3 cm (Bassett and Munro 1986)
  • Petals 5, generally purple, occasionally white (Bassett and Munro 1986)

Vegetative Features

  • Plants are covered with stellate hairs and long, yellow spines (Bassett and Munro 1986)
  • Plants have both vertical and horizontal roots, capable of producing new shoots from them (Bassett and Munro 1986)

Similar Species


Similar species are based on a study of seed morphology of various species, and those with similar dispersal units are identified. The study is limited by physical specimen and literature availability at the time of examination, and possibly impacted by the subjectivity of the authors based on their knowledge and experience. Providing similar species information for seed identification is to make users aware of similarities that could possibly result in misidentification.

Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. (silverleaf nightshade)

S. elaeagnifolium seeds are generally larger (length*: 2.2 – 3.5 mm; width: 1.7 – 3.0 mm) than S. carolinense seeds, brown coloured and the surface pattern is long, wavy lines around the outside of the seed compared to the generally yellow or orange coloured seeds of S. carolinense with wavy grooved reticulation over the surface of the seed. S. elaeagnifolium is often notched in the hilum area, unlike S. carolinense which is straight or curved.

* Note: minimum and maximum of 10 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)

Solanum torvum Sw.

S. torvum seeds are a similar size (length**: 1.9 – 2.8 mm; width: 1.5– 2.1 mm) but the shiny light yellow to brown seeds generally have a smooth, glazed surface with reticulation beneath that is more obvious and comprised of thick, wavy ridges compared to S. carolinense. S. torvum seeds generally have an inconspicuous hilum that is a closed narrow slit compared to the generally open teardrop-shaped hilum of S. carolinense. S. torvum may have a small circular hole in the middle of the hilum (Scher et al. 2015).

**Note: minimum and maximum of 12 seeds in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)

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Bassett, I. J. and Munro, D. B. 1986. The biology of Canadian weeds. 78. Solanum carolinense L. and S. rostratum Dunal. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 66: 977-991.

Brouillet, L., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P. and Desmet, P. 2010+. VASCAN, the database of vascular plants of Canada. http://data.canadensys.net/vascan/ Accessed March 03, 2022.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). 2022. Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/cabicompendium Accessed March 03, 2022.

Darbyshire, S. J. 2003. Inventory of Canadian Agricultural Weeds. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch. Ottawa, ON.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. 2022. https://doi.org/10.15468/39omei Accessed via https://www.gbif.org/species/2932011 Accessed December 29, 2022.

Government of Canada (GC). 2016. Canadian Weed Seeds Order. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-93/page-2.html (English) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/reglements/DORS-2016-93/page-2.html (French)

International Seed Morphology Association (ISMA). 2020. Method for Seed Size Measurement. Version 1.0. ISMA Publication Guide.

Scher, J. L., D. S. Walters, and A.J. Redford. 2015. Federal noxious weed disseminules of the U.S., Edition 2.2. California Department of Food and Agriculture, and USDA APHIS Identification Technology Program. Fort Collins, CO. http://idtools.org/id/fnw Access February 17, 2022.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS). 2022. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx Accessed March 03, 2022.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). 2022. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC USA. http://plants.usda.gov Accessed December 29, 2022.



Jennifer Neudorf, Angela Salzl, Ruojing Wang, Karen Castro, Katrina Entwistle
Canadian Food Inspection Agency