Parish’s Nightshade

Parish’s nightshade (Solanum parishii) belongs to the Nightshade Family, a family that contains over 1,000 species throughout the world, especially in the tropical Americas. Many members of this family are poisonous, yet it also includes many familiar food plants such as tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes.

A native perennial, Parish’s nightshade is found on dry grassy and brushy slopes below 6,000 feet in Oregon and California.

Parish’s nightshade stems can be erect or ascending with the plant often taking on a shrubby appearance. It is glabrous (without hairs), or nearly so, except for possibly a few short hairs at the tips of the stems or on the veins or edges of the alternate leaves, which are elliptical to lance shaped and entire with short petioles.

The inflorescence of Parish’s nightshade is umbel-like. The flowers are deep violet to lavender. The five petals are united into a star-like shape and have two green spots at the base of each petal. The five stamens grow side by side, creating a conspicuous cone that encloses the style.

Parish’s nightshade fruits are greenish berries containing many flattened seeds. To me the fruit looks like a small, green cherry tomato.

But do not eat the “tomato”. Like so many members of the Nightshade Family, Parish’s nightshade is poisonous if ingested and can be fatal.

Solanum, the genus name, is from the Latin and means “quieting” referring to the narcotic properties of some species. Brothers Samuel Bonsall Parish (1838 – 1928) and William Fletcher Parish (1840 – 1918) were California botanists. All parishii species named  are named after these two brothers. Samuel was the more avid collector and most species are named after him.

In May I photographed the plants and flowers along the Flannagan Trail in Redding CA (Shasta County). The fruits were growing along Salt Creek Trail, again in Redding CA, in June.

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