Mexico, West Indies, Belize
Occurs in relatively undisturbed wetlands, typically cypress swamps or along river margins; capable of forming large, tangled, monoculutral cypress stands of many acres by invading sparely vegetated areas or chambering over native vegetation. Can dominate the understory of cypress heads, growing over and covering even large plants such as fire flag (Thalia geniculata L.) and pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata L.). Listed as a category I invasive species by Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) and listed as a Noxious weed by Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and by U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Straggly and sprawling prickly shrub, woody below, herbanceous above, with prickly green stems to 5 m (16 ft) long and 1.5 cm (0.5 in) in diameter; branches often interlocking; stem prickles white to tan, recurved, broad-based, to 0.5 cm (0.2 in) long; stems also sparsely hairy with star-shaped (stellate) hairs. Leaves alternate, simple, with petioles to 3 cm (1.5 in) long; blades longer than wider, to 25 cm (10 in) long and 7 cm (3 in) wide, with deeply round-indented (sinuate) margins, recurved or straight prickles on veins, and stellate hairs. Flowers small, 3-11 in stalked, branched clusters at leaf axils; petals white, mostly free (fused only at base), spreading or often recurved; stamens with yellow anthers held closely and erect in center of flower. Fruit a small, spherical, tomato-like berry to 1 cm (0.4 in) wide, shiny solid green turning orange then bright red at maturity, with 10-60 yellowish, flat-round seeds.
Distinguished from other prickly Solanum spp. in Florida, native and exotic, by its clusters of up to 11 pea-sized red barries (with no dark markings when green), Its petioled, longer-than-wide, deeply sinulate leaves, its pubescence of stellate hairs only (no straight or glandular hairs), and its clambering, almost vinelike habit.
A recent accidental or natural introduction to Florida. First recorded in Florida in 1974 in the Dry Tortugas, where it has filled available wet habitat (confined by brick walls). First noted on the mainland in 1983 in a small hammock in south Charlotte County.
Has been found throughout central and southern Florida.
Do not plant. Remove root system and seedlings.