Tropical Soda Apple is “Weed of the Month”
March 25, 2013
Our FDACS/DPI botanists have designated the tropical soda apple, Solanum Viarum, as the Weed of the Month for March. Recognized as a threat to Florida’s cattle and vegetable industries since 1988, it has invaded most of the southeastern and south central United States, from North Carolina and Tennessee west to Texas and Oklahoma. According to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, this species has been observed in 58 of Florida’s 67 counties. It is particularly problematic in disturbed sites such as pastures, citrus groves, vegetable fields and roadsides.
A successful biocontrol program involving the tropical soda apple leaf-eating beetle, Gratiana bolliviana, has provided considerable control of the TSA weed throughout Florida. The beetle, which attacks and damages TSA exclusively, was first released on a Polk County, Fla. ranch in 2003. Since then beetles have been released in 39 counties in Florida, three in Georgia, two in Alabama and one county in Texas. They are causing extensive defoliation on TSA and are spreading from one to 10 miles per year from the initial release sites.