Q: This shrub “volunteered” at the base of a large sweetgum two years ago. I have never seen anything like it. It has small white flowers in the spring and the fruit is as shown; a bright, tomato red, sphere about one half inch in diameter that starts out green. The fruit is held for weeks. The bush is woody and now about 18 inches high by twenty four inches in width.
A: You have a Jerusalem cherry, Solanum pseudocapsicum. It is very ornamental but some folks consider it a weed because the brightly colored seed pods are poisonous. Solanum means the plant is part of the same family as tomatoes and potatoes. The pseudocapsicum part of the scientific name means it looks like a pepper but it’s not.
Technically it is classed as a tender perennial that should be killed by Atlanta’s winter cold. As you’ve found, experts are not always right. It sometimes comes back from its roots and sometimes from its seed.
The best control is to pull it up and discard, then wash your hands.
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