When I used to walk around my old neighborhood looking for sidewalk weeds, one that I came upon often was Carolina Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense) and Eastern Black Nightshade (Solanum ptycanthum). These plants, though pretty, are considered nasty weeds by many gardeners and home owners. Adding aid to that general consensus are the facts that they are also prickly to touch and poisonous. Anyway, I always thought they were very pretty flowers and spent a great deal of time studying the flower’s star shape and how the color of the stamens and pistils contrasted nicely with the petals and how they protruded added more interest to the overall flower shape.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself working as a farm hand in North Carolina helping to farm, mainly, tomatoes. When you tend to approximately 2,000 tomato plants you kind of get familiar with them. One day I noticed that the flowers of the tomato plants had a very familiar look.
I saw the same star shape as the nightshades plants mentioned above and the same type of protrusion of the stamens and pistils. Because there were several waste fields around where I farmed, it was not difficult to pluck and few flowers from each plant and compare them up close to one another. When I went home, I looked in my field guides and learned that Tomatoes are also in the genus Solanum. As the summer went on and I watched some of the other crops flower and fruit, I saw a few other versions of this same flower on plants like potatoes and bell peppers. My point is this: observation is a far better tool than calling something up on a smart phone, which you will probably forget two seconds later. This is why drawing is also a valuable exercise to really learn what something looks like. So put away your smart phone. Use your eyes, nose, and ears and maybe even a pencil and pad of paper to learn about nature in a truly meaningful and unforgettable way.
Below are the photos above with a few others views so you can see a side by side comparison.