Tropical soda apple

Alert

Have you seen Tropical soda apple?

Be on the lookout for Tropical soda apple and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in controlling Tropical soda apple.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to South America, tropical soda apple is a prickly perennial shrub with yellow fruit. It can be invasive and also host various plant viruses.

Tropical soda apple is a major pest in Florida, where it has invaded at least 500,000ha of land and costs landholders millions of dollars each year in control costs and lost production. Queensland has only a small number of isolated tropical soda apple infestations, but the species has the potential to become a pest in coastal and subcoastal Queensland.

Tropical soda apple is a prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Solanum viarum

Similar species

  • Devils Apple (Solanum capsicoides), Devils fig (S. torvum), Giant Devils fig (S. chrysotrichum), Apple of Soddom (S. linnaeanum)

Description

  • Upright, multi-branched perennial shrub 0.5-2m tall.
  • Stems have thorn-like prickles up to 12mm long.
  • Leaves are 10-20cm long, 6-15cm wide, covered with short hairs and white prickles.
  • Flowers are white with 5 recurved petals and white to cream-coloured stamens.
  • Immature fruits are smooth, round, mottled light and dark green like a watermelon.
  • Mature fruits are yellow, 1-3cm in diameter, with leathery skin surrounding pale green, scented pulp, each containing 180 to 240 seeds.
  • Seeds are pale brown, tear-shaped, 3mm across.

Habitat

  • Prefers open, disturbed sites, especially pastures and areas around cattle yards.
  • Prefers coastal, high-rainfall habitats in tropical and subtropical areas.

Distribution

  • First detected in Queensland in November 2010 near Coominya in South East Queensland.
  • Currently small number of isolated infestations in Queensland.

Life cycle

  • Reproduces from seeds.
  • Flowers autumn-winter.
  • Fruit sets in winter.

Affected animals

  • Livestock

Impacts

Economic

  • Invades and replace pasture, including improved pasture.
  • Leaves are unpalatable to livestock (although fruit are readily eaten).
  • Provides an alternative host for at least 6 viruses that affect various vegetables.

How it is spread

  • Seeds spread primarily by cattle but also by birds, feral pigs, deer, contaminated hay, and water.

Control

Physical control

  • Hand-pull or chip out isolated plants and small infestations, making sure to remove all roots and stem fragments.

Herbicide control

See the Tropical soda apple fact sheet (PDF, 2.4MB) for herbicide control and application rates.

Biological control

  • No known biological control agents.

Legal requirements

  • Tropical soda apple is a prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • The Act requires that all sightings to be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of Tropical soda apple spreading until they receive advice from an authorised officer.

Further information