Tropical Soda Apple: Introduction
Tropical soda apple and Gratiana boliviana
Tropical soda apple (TSA) (Solanum viarum) is a prickly, perennial weed from South America that arrived in Florida in the 1980s. It invades rangelands, improved pastures and natural areas, and rapidly spread through Florida and into other southern states. Cattle and wild mammals do not consume the prickly leaf tissue, but they do feed on the fruits, and in doing so, transport seeds in their digestive tracks to new areas.
In collaboration with the Florida Department of Agriculture and the USDA, a biological control program against tropical soda apple was initiated in 1994. A leaf feeding beetle, Gratiana boliviana, was discovered in Argentina and Paraguay. Host range testing revealed that the beetle was a specialist herbivore of tropical soda apple, and therefore a release permit was approved in 2003. From 2003-2011, over 250,000 beetles were released in the state. Gratiana boliviana is now established throughout Florida, and several studies have demonstrated that the beetles is responsible for a marked decrease in the abundance and severity of tropical soda apple in Florida.Learn more about the Biological Control of Tropical Soda Apple