Kangaroo Apple or Poroporo

I watched a coyote forage in one of these bushes. When the coyote left, we went up to examine the berries which I had never seen before. I took a tiny taste, and my friend gulped down a couple to help us determine what they were: the flavor was bitter with a tad of sweet. When I got home, I couldn’t find the plant on the internet, so I turned to my Nextdoor site and posed the question there. They indeed came up with what it was: Kangaroo apple, as it’s called in Australia, or poroporo, as it is called in New Zealand are native to those areas, but have been naturalized into the Bay Area and can be found throughout San Francisco. AND, we should not have eaten them as they are poisonous — they belong to the nightshade family! Yikes!
Once I had the name of the plant, I looked up more about it. Interestingly, it’s flowers are hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs). They are blue-violet or white in color, and a little over an inch in size. Flowers are followed by berries of about the same size. The berries, it turns out, are poisonous only while green — they become edible once they turn orange.  Whew!
The next day I went back to see if the coyote would appear again: I wasn’t sure it was eating the fruit or possibly foraging for snails or slugs on the plant. I wondered why a coyote might eat toxic material. As I watched, I saw that the coyote eating only the orange colored fruit! Maybe the green ones were unsavory and bitter as well as toxic? Smart coyote!


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bobbie Pyron
    Sep 20, 2017 @ 00:16:09

    I had a coyote mix who loved to eat a certain berry from a specific bush we’d pass often on our walks. As soon as the berries appeared, she’d start “testing” them with her little front teeth. She didn’t eat them until they easily pulled off the bush. Sometimes that took six weeks or more, but she never ate them until they were very ripe. Then she LOVED them!


  2. Charles Wood
    Sep 20, 2017 @ 09:35:14

    Hi, Janet, it’s Charles. What a great story. Wheew.

    It must be that a coyote goes by taste, I think so anyway. And the fruit becomes edible when it is about to drop its seeds. So I think that, if the fruit were tasty before the seeds were mature, the plant’s seeds wouldn’t get to mature because coyotes and others would eat them. So we can say that a coyote is smart about what it eats. And I would like to think that a plant is a sort of “discriminating” producer.


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