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Solanum quitoense plant 09 30 20 IMG 7009

Solanum quitoense (Naranjilla)

October 1, 2020

Guarding the entrance to the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory, and lurking in both the Paisley Bed and the Herb Garden, is the spectacular, if slightly sinister, Solanum quitoense.

Solanum quitoense 2017 the setting
At the Conservatory in 2017...
Solanum quitoense setting 2 09 30 20
...and alongside the Herb Garden, this week

It is a member of the nightshade/tomato family and its fruits do, indeed, look like small, slightly fuzzy tomatoes. It comes from Colombia, Panama and Ecuador: the specific epithet quitoense means “of Quito.”

Solanum quitoense with fruit 09 30 20 IMG 6983

The fruits turn orange when ripe—hence the name naranjilla, “little orange”—and they yield a tangy juice. They are soft and easily damaged and therefore not easily transported fresh.

Even as an ornamental, it is a fascinating plant. With large, pale-green foliage and fearsome-looking spines arising from the upper side of each leaf, it never fails to attract attention.

Solanum quitoense leaf close up 09 30 20

Because it is a tropical plant, in our climate it can only be grown outdoors in the warmer months.

The work of Wave Hill’s now retired Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter Charles Day, this post dates back three years to October 4, 2017. Charlie’s writing has a perennial quality, and we are delighted to be able to showcase his knowledge this fall with some new photos.