The newly installed bahiagrass sod at the Audubon House adjacent to the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area has brought with it many species of weeds and at least one very invasive pest plant new to the area. Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) was extracted from the sod and placed in the parking lot to wilt and to be photographed by Steve Goff and Ken Gonyo.
Also known as Sodom apple, this Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Category 1 invasive pest plant from South America was first collected in Florida in 1988 in pastures and disturbed sites. By 1996, it had invaded approximately 500,000 acres. University of Florida estimates that more than one million acres of improved pastureland and native areas are infested.
Cattle will not eat its thorny stems and leaves but do consume — and spread — its fruits which contain thousands of tiny, viable seeds. Ranchers and farmers work hard to control this pernicious pest, and a biological control agent, the TSA beetle was released in 2003.
You can learn more about this pest at the Tame Tropical Soda Apple website.