Be on the lookout for an introduced invasive plant recently found in Hopkinsville. The plant identified as Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) is a perennial broadleaf native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Identification was confirmed from plants submitted to the University of Kentucky Weed Science Herbarium.
Tropical Soda Apple was first discovered in the United States in 1988 in pastureland in south Florida. The route of initial introduction into the U.S. is specifically unknown but may have been through cattle imported from Brazil (ca. 1985) accidentally carrying undigested TSA seed. Since its introduction into the United States, TSA has rapidly spread to grazed pasturelands and natural ecosystems. This weed has been reported in nine states within the southeastern U.S., which includes Florida and Mississippi where it was first observed, plus Pennsylvania. TSA is known to be spread by livestock and wildlife that consume the fruit, as well as, through hay, sod, grass seeds and composted manure. The introduction observed in Hopkinsville is thought to have been from bagged pine needle mulch purchased from a garden center associated with a national hardware store, which provides an opportunity for widespread distribution. According to the homeowner, a number of new seedlings plants have emerged throughout the summer from the mulched landscape area.