Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
Solanum atropurpureum, a dramatic member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), is commonly called purple devil or malevolence. These frightful names refer not only to its threatening, dark-purple, spine-covered stems, but also to the fact that the entire plant is poisonous (like many of its relatives).
Its ferocious nature aside, this is a very handsome plant and a wonderful addition to the display of tropical plants on Wave Hill House’s Kate French Terrace this summer. Located in the corners of the planting beds, behind less noxious plants, it can be admired easily but does not pose a threat to the unwary, bare-legged visitor.
Native to Brazil, where it can grow into a six-foot tall shrub and live for up to five years, here it only survives outdoors during the warmer months. It will continue to grow into the autumn but will not withstand any serious frosts.