The Potato Tree is so named because it is related to the potato and because the broken roots of the Potato Tree smell like cooked potatoes. They are both members of the genus Solanum, which is in the tomato family. It is a fast growing evergreen shrub or small tree, reaching a height of 2–8 m (6.6–26 ft). The grey or brown bark is smooth-lenticellate and the trunk is 2–5 cm (0.79–2.0 in) thick. The crown is flat-topped and spreading. Although the wood is soft and brittle, the limbs are strong enough to support birds such as chachalacas. The simple leaves are alternate, ovate or elliptic, and 12–37 cm (4.7–15 in) long. Flowers are in lateral cymes and are 1.1–1.8 cm (0.43–0.71 in) in diameter. The five-lobed corolla is white and the five stamens have yellow anthers. The fruit is a yellow berry 1–1.2 cm (0.39–0.47 in) in diameter with many seeds. S. erianthum is native to the southernmost parts of the contiguous United States (southern Florida and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas), the Bahamas, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, including the Galápagos Islands. It is believed that Spanish explorers introduced Potato Tree to the Philippines in the 16th century, and from there it spread to Malesia, Australia, and the Asian mainland. It was probably introduced to West Africa from the Caribbean via the Atlantic slave trade. It is not found in most of South America.
- Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours.
- Put a mixture of potting soil and sand or perlite into a pot with drainage holes in the base.
- Sow the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a layer of soil that is 0.5 inches thick.
- Water the seeds. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
- When the plants are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.