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Plantgasm - I love plants too much. By Derek Powazek.

Punk Rock Solanum atop Buena Vista Park

Sitting at the highest point of Buena Vista Park is one of my favorite plants in San Francisco.

Solanum marginatum

I love him because he’s a weed. A poisonous, spiky, punk rock weed. Solanum marginatum is native to Ethiopia and in the nightshade family, like tomatoes. Think of them as the tomato’s badass distant cousin.

He first appeared a couple years ago, probably from a seed in a blob of bird poop, the descendant of another plant far from home. Buena Vista is a dog park, but even as a seedling, he was tough. His prickles kept the dogs at bay. They could smell that he was bad news.

The gardeners let the young plant live because he formed a barrier on the hillside, preventing dogs from trampling the smaller plants on their way down the hill, chasing balls. So, in a way, this brute is the protector of the plants below.

What started as a little weed is now the size of a minivan, covered in green-yellow fruit, and menacing as hell. You’ve gotta respect that.

Solanum marginatum

I don’t know how long he’ll be there, but if you go to the top of Buena Vista Park now, you can’t miss him. Go say hi. Just don’t get too close. He could totally kick your ass.

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3 Responses

Oh,bad ass is right & he looks to be kind of a prick as well! ;) When you think of all the plants that are included in the night shade family and the majority are poisonous how we can eat the fruit of the tomato plant and live to tell how tasty it was is wild!!

Posted by Roberta on 28 November 2011 @ 10pm

These critters run untended on parts of Alcatraz. I wonder if that’s where the seed was born! I brought home a tiny seedling from there one volunteering day (don’t worry- I rescued it from the compost), but was not prepared for the rapidly achieved size. Whew.
FYI, muy poisonous, those tomato-like fruits!

Posted by boZannical Zann on 29 November 2011 @ 5pm

We are sitting in buena Vista park right now, and this guy is still thriving! We would not have known what this was without your post, thanks!

Posted by anon on 23 December 2011 @ 3pm


Plantgasm is where Derek Powazek chronicles his botanical antics and misadventures. More.