Once upon a time, there was a potatotree (Solanum erianthum) at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA). It is gone now, likely the victim of overzealous trail widening.
Potatotree is native to the southern U.S., the Caribbean, Central American, and northern South America. It is the only tree in the nightshade family, Solanaceae, that is native to Florida. Potato tree can grow to be 25′ tall, most often is found in hammock gaps and edges, and is shown above in a picture taken on 7-21-2013 at Cypress Bend Community Preserve.
Its common name refers to the smell of crushed roots: Cooked potatoes. Its fruits do not resemble potatoes but are a dime-sized yellow fruits that contains many seeds much like the fruits of twin-leaf solanum (Solanum diphyllum), an exotic invasive pest plant that grows at ORCA.
The alternate leaves of the potatotree are quite different in shape and texture than the leaves of twin-leaf solanum and can be up to 1′ long.
The species name erianthum means wooly and refers to the hairs (trichomes) that cover its leaves, stems, and fruits.
Older stems are brownish in color.
Above Eiko Martellotti (Class of 2012) provides potato tree scale. Shown below are the 7/21/2013 walk participants: Bob Bruce (Class of 2012), Ken Gonyo (Class of 2012), Dr. Richard “Dick” Baker, Jean “JJ” Romano (Class of 2013), Sam Chancellor (Class of 2010), John Warner (Class of 2012), Diane Morgan (Class of 2012), Eiko Martellotti, and Jean Challis (Class of 2002).
Two very happy dogs (who are no longer with us) were there, too: Pepper (who lived with Bob Bruce & Janice Broda) and Clipper (who lived with John Warner & Diane Morgan) …