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The good, the bad and the not so ugly

This article was first published on 11 Dec 2019.

Solanum laciniatum

Solanum laciniatum

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

Many ‘weeds’ have their good sides but poroporo (Solanum laciniatum) can get a bad rap. Despite its vibrant purple flowers and ornamental fruits, it goes unmentioned in most gardening books and is widely considered a nuisance.

Is poroporo a weed? Not in any ecological sense as it’s a local native.  It provides shelter for restoration plantings and attracts birds to eat ripe fruit. The birds then leave rich droppings which contain more native seeds, encouraging faster regeneration.

But let’s look at some of the specific pros and cons.

Con - It’s poisonous.

Be careful! All green parts of the plant are highly toxic. But when the fruits are so ripe that they are orange, splitting and falling off the plant, they can be eaten – like their cousin, the tomato.

Pro – It’s a rongoā.

Pounded and pulped leaves can be used to cool and relieve itchy skin or sores.

A chemical in poroporo (solasodine) has been used in contraceptive pills and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Con - It’s quick growing and pops up all over the place.

Poroporo thrives in disturbed ground, such as your garden.

Pro – It’s quick growing and pops up all over the place.

But you can prune it down to make a tighter shrub. Try training it against a wall, or lift the lower branches to form a canopy, protecting tender plants beneath.

Con - It’s kind of ugly.

It tends to sprawl and take up space.  But see above.

Pro – It’s kind of beautiful.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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