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Woolly nightshade - furry, but not friendly!

woolly nightshade showing flower buds and berries
woolly nightshade showing flower buds and berries

Although it may sound quite cute, there is nothing cuddly about the woolly nightshade.

Like much of the nightshade family, it is poisonous - so don’t eat the berries! In addition the fine ‘hairs’ that come off the plant can cause a reaction in some people, by touch or inhalation. It can grow to several metres in height if left unchecked and grows very quickly, outcompeting native plants. It will also shed berries all over the surrounding area. You don't want this growing in your backyard, especially if you’ve got kids or pets, or live close to a reserve.

So, have we convinced you yet that woolly nightshade is a plant to get rid of?

Read on to find out how to get rid of it.

About woolly nightshade

Woolly nightshade, also known as Tobacco weed, Kerosene plant or Solanum maritianum, is an invasive pest plant from Brazil. It spreads easily by seed, forming dense stands and prevents the establishment of native plants. All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans (especially the berries) so it’s important to remove it wherever it is found. The plant can cause skin and respiratory irritation where it stands and as it is removed, so care should be taken to cover up the skin, wear eye protection and a dust mask when controlling the pest plant.

Looking up at a woolly nightshade tree
Looking up at a woolly nightshade tree

What does it look like?

A sparse shrub or small tree to 10m tall, with whitish, soft-wooded stems. It’s large, velvety, oval grey-green leaves are covered in dusty hairs and whitish underneath. Dense clusters of mauve to purple flowers with yellow anthers appear from January to December, followed by clusters of ripe round berries (1cm diameter) that ripen from hard green to soft, dull yellow.

woolly nightshade seedling showing the furry leaves
woolly nightshade seedling showing the furry leaves

Why is it weedy?

  • Grows rapidly,

  • Produces a toxic soil that inhibits other plants

  • Forms dense stands that outcompete native vegetation.

  • The seeds are easily spread by birds

  • Tolerates a wide range of conditions.

poisonous woolly nightshade flowers
poisonous woolly nightshade flowers

What can I do to get rid of it?

  1. Pull or dig out the plant by the roots. Leave to rot on site

  2. Bag up seeds and dispose of safely (drown in a container of water for a few months, dry and burn, or put out in your general rubbish for landfill.

  3. Cut the base of the stem and cover with thick black polythene to exclude light. Cover polythene and entire root zone with 150mm deep mulch for 12 months.

  4. Cut the base of the stem and paint stump with 1-2mm layer of a double strength glyphosate gel, such as Bamboo Buster, ensuring rim of stump is pasted.*

  5. If safe to leave standing and die (such as a good distance from people or property) scrape 30cm of the stem close to the ground with a saw blade and then paint with this area with double strength glyphosate gel or picloram gel (not to be used near non-target plants or water).*

*Herbicides can be harmful if used incorrectly. Always read the label before using and get in touch if in doubt.


Here are some things you can do to help tackle pest plants in your area:

  • Recognise - Learn what it looks like

  • Report - Use our new EcoNet CAMS Weed App to repor​t locations

  • Remove - Find out how to control the vine and get supplies from our Tool Shed

  • Restore - Plant natives in its place, to stop it coming back, and to support our native wildlife

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Nov 25, 2022

Hi there, thank you for the informative page. Do you have advice regarding what to do after removing woolly nightshade? I have a tree over my back fence which has been recently cut down. My lilly pillys adjacent to this have always struggled. Will they now flourish with the tree gone or will the soil be already poisoned and require some sort of treatment? Cheers

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