Tropical Soda Apple - Solanum viarum
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Tropical soda apple (TSA) is a perennial shrubby forb, growing to 6 feet in height and width. Leaves are broad and resemble fig or oak leaves somewhat. Entire plant is armed with ¾ inch long, straight prickles. It is easily recognized by the fruit, which is a mottled mix of whitish and dark greens that resemble a watermelon. Mature fruit are yellow in color and ¾ to 1 ½ inches in diameter. Tropical soda apple invades primarily pastures, fields, and parks, but also has the potential to invade open forest and other natural areas. Tropical soda apple forms thick stands that can be impenetrable to livestock, large wildlife, and humans. Tropical soda apple is native to South America and was introduced accidentally into America, being found in Florida in 1988.
TSA has spread to over 1 million acres in Florida and surrounding states. This weed is listed on the USDA-APHIS Federal Noxious Weed List and is a nuisance to livestock, rangeland, and row crop management in Georgia. TSA reproduces rapidly and is easily dispersed by cattle, wildlife, and various farming operations such as harvesting forage grasses and row crops. Seeds of TSA are spread by the interstate movement of livestock. TSA seed have even been found in commercial seed. TSA rapidly colonizes new areas threatening our agricultural and native ecosystems. TSA quickly chokes out forage grasses causing ranchers to incur additional production costs by feeding forage to livestock rather than allowing livestock to graze. The TSA problem has gotten so bad in some locations that ranchers and row crop farmers have abandoned pastures and fields. Labor and herbicide costs for TSA control are a burden.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture has documented Tropical Soda Apple on nearly 15,000 acres in Georgia. TSA is most commonly spread though the movement of livestock. TSA fruit is appealing to livestock, and the seed remain viable as they pass through the digestive track of foraging animals. Plant Protection Section Inspectors began battling this weed in 1998. During our peak eradication efforts, Plant Protection Section Inspectors contributed over 6,000 work-hours annually to combating TSA.
Website, video, and graphics by Rob Nelson
For more information on this plant or management please contact US Army Corp of Engineers