Do you have Horse Nettle? Then you know NOT to horse around with this nasty plant. Why? Saddle up and read on…
Also known as Carolina horse nettle; native to North America; toxic to livestock and humans; hosts a number of diseases and insects that attack related plants, such as tomato and potato
It’s has a pretty flower, that’s what caught my eye. Taking our two new pups Dixie and Rebel for a walk, I spied some beautiful pale purple flowers. I do love me some purple. So I snapped a few photos and asked my 5 Dog Farm Facebook group if anyone knew what this was. Boy was I surprised to find out what 5 Dog Farm member Roma had to say. POISONOUS is what I saw first… then deadly. Swell. So much for being sucked in by purple.
In fact, the entire plant is toxic. It’s part of the nightshade family, ya know those: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, tomatillos (yum), potatoes and surprisingly goji berries! Oh, and for those of you that smoke…tobacco too.
It has other names like: Devil’s Tomato, Carolina Horse Nettle, Bull Nettle. Someone was really thinking with the Devil’s Tomato moniker. I agree… it’s a devil. I call mine Charlie Horse, since it’s a real pain. The only reason “nettle” is attached to the name is because of the nasty spiky spines it has all over it. It has nothing to do with the nettle species. So… does that make it a horse of a different color? Ok. I’ll stop. Maybe.
A little more about it: A native of the American South this perennial has spiny stems and leaves. The flowers have elongated petals that cluster at the ends of the stems and bloom from July through August. Colors range from white to pale purple and they are about 1 inch across. They sort of form a five-pointed star shape with 5 large, protruding yellow stamens. They produce fruits which are very toxic and look like tiny yellow tomatoes which hang around through winter. You’ll find it in woods, fields and other grassy areas. Sadly, it’s hard to control. Worse, it can kill cattle if they eat it and it’s not too fabulous for humans either. Great.
Interestingly, the Cherokee used Horse Nettle for several remedies ranging from a poultice of the leaves used as a poison ivy remedy to creating an infusion using the seeds for sore throat relief, the leaves have even been used as an insecticide but I believe we will leave this little pony alone and do our best to abate it.
So how do we get rid of this little devil? As you can imagine I will have better luck choosing a winning horse at the Kentucky Derby than finding an easy abatement solve for this wicked weed.
Some sites say use glyphosate but we all know THAT substance is not allowed anywhere near our farm and should be outlawed period… but that’s another story.
- It can’t be tilled as it will replant.
- Mowing doesn’t work.
- Grazing, as we now know, is a no-no.
- Fire! Can I use fire? Time to buy that flame thrower right?! Well, as fun as that would be for me I’m sure I’d give Mr. Bluejeans a heart attack.
There is a very laborious way to get rid of it so we all know this is the action that has to be taken because… that’s life on a farm. :p
I did find some help
straight from the horse’s mouth per Gardens Alive :
“In year one, cut down the plants as soon as you can ID them. Force the roots to expend energy growing new leaves but try not to allow any of those leaves to reach the size where they can achieve photosynthesis. You’ll eventually starve the plant, which is used to being left alone to spread via its rhizomes and by dropped seed. (You could use a weed whacker to keep up with the job; but only if you make sure to always wear good shoes, long pants and such. You want to keep the toxic juice and nasty spines offa your bare skin.)
In year two continue to cut the plants back until we get to a hot dry stretch in the summer, and then use a flame weeder to toast newly emerging baby plants; or spray them with a non-toxic herbicide like herbicidal soap or one of the newer iron-based broadleaf herbicides. But you have to knock the plants down for a full season first so that the new sprouts will emerge small and weak enough to be vulnerable to these tactics.
Another alternative is to solarize the soil: Keep cutting them back now. Then scalp the area super low in the spring, really saturate it with water and cover it tightly with one or two mil thick clear plastic”.
This won’t be an easy task for us because we have
the devil Horse Nettle all over our 60 acres. Sigh. It’s hard to be a giddy-up girl in a slow trot world. But seems I CAN use a flame weeder… WIN!
So we begin the hack and slash of our new nemesis the Horse Nettle. Seems we better hoof it since it’s a spreader. Mr. Bluejeans may even enjoy taking out his machete and brandishing it about, whacking away at this pest.
Me? I’d rather be out buying a ridiculous hat for the Derby and sipping a Mint Julep.
Do you have a nasty weed to get rid of?