I came across this Carolina horsenettle (Solanum carolinense, Solanaceae) a few weeks ago at Side Cut Metropark near Maumee, Ohio. This native and widespread nightshade is considered weedy, but this was the first time I had seen one. It’s most often found on disturbed sites, and the frequently-inundated and rocky banks of the Maumee River fit that description.
In early autumn this plant bore a large number of small tomato-like fruit. Tomatoes are also in the nightshade family, but unlike tomatoes Carolina horsenettle is poisonous.
This plant features dense, hard spines along the stems and leaf midveins that make it look (and probably feel) rather formidable. Between the spines and its poisonous nature, another common name seems more appropriate: Devil’s tomato.