Hawaiian Names with Diacritics
- Nelson's horsenettle
- Solanum laysanense
Endangered Species Status
Plant Form / Growth Habit
- Partially Woody / Shrub-like
- Sprawling Shrub
Mature Size, Height (in feet)
- Shrub, Dwarf, Less than 2
- Shrub, Small, 2 to 6
Mature Size, Width
Depending on the form and origin, pōpolo has a spread from 2 to 6 foot wide.
Long lived (Greater than 5 years)
- Ground Cover
- Specimen Plant
- Trellis or Fence Climber
Additional Landscape Use Information
Outplant with a nematicide to prevent root-knot nematodes. Pōpolo growth habits vary with the origin of the plants from a prostrate groundcover (Moʻomomi, Molokaʻi) to small shrubs (Midway) about three feet tall.  Therefore it is wise to inquire about the source or type of popolo for a particular use in landscaping.
Pōpolo does well in cement, clay or terra cotta pots with very good drainage and optimal sunlight. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
There is also an example of this species of pōpolo being grown as an upright plant on a small trellis or "tomato basket" at Maui Nui Gardens, Maui. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Plant Produces Flowers
- Light Purple
Additional Flower Color Information
Pōpolo flowers are white-tinged lavender to pale or medium purple with S-shaped yellow anthers flushed purple. 
- Year Round
Additional Blooming Period and Fruiting Information
After flowering the fruits will turn green, mottled with purple or red, before maturing to blackish purple or red [Nīhoa var.] pea to marble-sized berries. [1,2]
Additional Plant Texture Information
Pōpolo leaves are 1 to over 2 inches long and usually pubescent with star-shaped (stellate) hairs.  These hairs can easily be seen by using a magnifying glass.
- Light Green
- Medium Green
Additional Leaf Color Information
The thick round leaves can be from a blue green found on plants from Midway (Pihemanu) to golden or brownish green on those from Maui Nui (Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Maui). [Forest & Kim Starr, United States Geological Survey-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit]
Additional Pest & Disease Information
Pōpolo is prone to leave miners, black twig borers, ants, scale, aphids, mealy bugs, white flies, thrips and mites. Mice will occasionally eat fruits.
An application of a balanced slow release fertilize with minor elements is beneficial every six months. For mature plants, foliar feed monthly with kelp or fish emulsion, or a water-soluble fertilizer with a dilution of one half to one third of recommended strength. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Pōpolo does not require any trimming. [David Eickhoff, Native Plants Hawaiʻi]
Additional Water Information
Once pōpolo is well established, water only when its dry.
Soil must be well drained
- Full sun
- Salt Spray
- Northwest Islands
Natural Zones (Elevation in feet, Rainfall in inches)
- Less than 150, 0 to 50 (Dry)
- 150 to 1000, 0 to 50 (Dry)
Additional Habitat Information
Pōpolo grows in coastal sites in coral rubble to pure sand. It is likely extinct on Kure (Kānemilohaʻi), Laysan (Kauō), Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi, but has been reintroduced into some of these locations. [1; Forest & Kim Starr, United States Geological Survey-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit]
The only sizeable populations on the main islands are found from Moʻomomi to ʻĪlio Point on the northwest coast of Molokaʻi. It is one of the more common native plant species on Nīhoa. 
Pōpolo (Solanum nelsonii) is a member of Solanaceae or the Nightshade family.
There are four species of Solanum native to the Hawaiian Achipelago: one questionably indigenous species, glossy nightshade (S. americanum), with juicy edible fruits; and three endemics, pōpolo kū mai (S. incompletum), pōpolo (S. nelsonii), and pōpolo ʻaiakeakua (S. sandwicense), all of which do not have edible fruits.
Other native members of the Nighshade family include and the indigenous ʻōhelo kai (Lycium sandwicense) and four species of ʻaiea in the endemic genus Nothocestrum.
Some edible family favorites are tomato, potato, eggplant, cape gooseberry or pohā, tomatillo, and green and chile peppers.
However, as the family name implies, this group also has some of the deadliest of all plants with sinister names as Apple of Sodom, Angel's trumpet, Porcupine tomato, Thorn apple, Devil's fig, Devil's apple, and Five-Minute plant. Other kin containing toxic chemicals are mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), and tobacco (Nicotiana spp.). But the "Queen of Toxins," and one of our planets deadliest, is Belladonna (Atropa belladonna), which possess tropane alkaloids. It also goes by the names Devil's berries, Death Cherries, or Deadly nightshade. Then, there are some merely grown for their beautiful flowers like the garden favorites petunias, and the spectacular Golden challice vine (Solandra maxima).
The Latin generic name Solanum is derived from solor or solatus, comforter, for some plants in this genus that were used medically, specifically S. nigrum, once used to treat epilepsy.
The specific epithet, nelsonii, is named on behalf of David Nelson, a botanist who traveled with Captain Cook on his third voyage of discovery in 1779 and collected more than 130 plant specimens from Mauna Loa, Hawaiʻi Island. 
All four native species share the name pōpolo, which refers to the plant itself.
ʻĀkia is a Niʻihau name and is shared by native Wikstroemia spp.
This is another "rather common" example of the extreme variation within a single species, likely to encompass several species or varieties in this single species.
This variable shrub is being used in restoration projects in the state, such as a Kaʻena Point, Oʻahu with prostrate form.
 "Natural History of Nihoa and Necker Islands" by Neal L. Evenhuis, pages 67-68.
 "Islands in a Far Sea-The Fate of Nature in Hawaiʻi" by John L. Culliney, page 147.
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Other Nursery Profiles for Solanum nelsonii