Solanum mauritianum

Woolly nightshade

Family: Solanaceae

Origin: South America

The yellow and green berries of woolly nightshade.
Also known as turpentine plant, woolly nightshade has a chemical small when the leaves are crushed. Stems are covered in small silica hairs that cause skin irritation.
Photo credit: Jonathan Boow

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Aotea — Eradication
  • Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area priority status
  • Whole region — Sustained control
  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Parkland with Significant Ecological Areas — Site-led (on-park and buffer)

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Perennial shrub or small tree < 4 m tall. Leaves are grey/green, ovate and densely covered in furry hairs. Flowers are purple and borne in clusters at end of branches. Fruit is a dull yellow berry.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell woolly nightshade. As woolly nightshade is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant woolly nightshade within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any woolly nightshade on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.
  • If you occupy land within the buffer area of a park where woolly nightshade is being managed, you must destroy all woolly nightshade on that land. View a map of park buffers where this applies. To find out more about how we’re protecting Auckland’s parkland from pest plants, visit our pest plant buffer pages.

Auckland Council will control woolly nightshade at all sites within the Aotea/Great Barrier Island group where it is known to occur.

If you see woolly nightshade anywhere on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group, please report it to Auckland Council at pestfree@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz.

Habitats

Disturbed habitat, open scrub or forest, roadsides, riparian and field margins, urban areas.

Dispersal

Seeds dispersed by birds and gravity.

Impact on environment

Forms dense stands, inhibiting native vegetation regeneration. Displaces pasture species and reduces food availability for stock. Contact may cause skin irritation and respiratory problems.

Control

Site Management

Avoid using picloram near streams and wetlands. Trees are best controlled standing and allowed to breakdown slowly. Follow up treated areas 3 times per year.

Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Do not attempt to undertake control of this species on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group. Please report to Auckland Council if seen on Aotea/Great Barrier Island group.

Physical control

Method: Dig or pull out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.

Biocontrol

Check for the presence of agents:

  • Woolly nightshade lace bug (Gargaphia decois).

For more information about how biocontrol works, see What is biocontrol?

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: For small stems cut near ground and paste with double strength glyphosate or picloram gel or frill stem and paste fresh cuts with double strength glyphosate gel or picloram gel.

Safety notes

Plant can cause irritation to the throat and skin.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

A small woolly nightshade plant.
A soft leaved perennial herb that can grow up to 3m tall. Small woolly nightshade plants are single stemmed, but become multi stemmed as they mature.
The canopy of woolly nightshade plants in flower.
A plant that is tolerant of dry and hot conditions and can grow in poor soils. Woolly nightshade only survives in areas where there is no frost.
Close up of Woolly Nightshade flowers.
A very fast growing plant that can reach seed-bearing age very quickly. Woolly nightshade bears purple flowers with dark purple centres and bright yellow anthers.
Close up of Woolly Nightshade flowers.
Once woolly nightshade flowers are pollinated, they form into round fruit that become yellow as they mature. Fruit are a food source for native birds which then spread the seeds across the countryside.
Tops of a Woolly Nightshade plant showing flowers and immature fruit.
Woolly nightshade constantly generates flowers across the warmer months, and copious amounts of fruit. Trunks and stems are slightly woody but easily chopped down with a hand saw.
Looking up into the canopy of Woolly Nightshade.
Seeds remain viable for many years and can wait for disturbance before they germinate. Woolly nightshade seeds prefer to germinate in the sunlight and plants do not tend to invade mature forest.