During the Great Pumpkin Ball at the Jardin botanique, come discover some astonishing members of the gourd family in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse. This year, if you look around you, in addition to decorated pumpkins you’ll notice a few strange plants: an eggplant variety that produces miniature pumpkins, and nightshades covered with frightening spines – true Halloween creatures!
Despite their morphological differences, these three species have one thing in common: they’re part of the genus Solanum and the family Solanaceae, just like their famous cousin the “ordinary” tomato (S. lycopersicum).
See what you can find – here are some clues…
The porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthos)
It has beautiful purple and yellow flowers, but its leaves and stems are covered with long, pointy bright-orange spines. It’s an ornamental plant also known as “devil’s thorn” and sometimes sold under the name S. pyracanthos “Lucifer.” Be careful: it bites, and the berries are poisonous – a defense against herbivores.
Sticky nightshade (Solanum sisymbriifolium)
Also known as “litchi tomato,” the plant comes from South America. Its leaves are also equipped with orange spines. The blooms are white with a yellow heart, and will produce small red berries protected by spiny sepals.
Ethiopian eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum)
This species originates in Africa and is very close to the common eggplant (S. melongena). The fruit, rather bitter tasting, is used in African, South American and Asian cooking. There are many varieties, including “pumpkin on a stick,” which is used as an ornamental plant for its orange fruit, resembling little pumpkins.
Enjoy the hunt!