Sunday, August 15, 2010


This unfriendly-looking plant is flourishing in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, my favorite of the many Smithsonian gardens. Currently growing happily among the hostas and begonias, the naranjillo (Solanum Quitoense) is a native of Equador. Nasty-looking thorns stud leaves as much as two feet long. The thorns stick out of both the top and the bottom of the leaves. More thorns cover the stems. All to protect the plant's unassuming white flowers and round, hairy fruits. I can't help but admire this extraordinary display of defenses. But it doesn't make me want to go for a walk in an Equadorian jungle any time soon.