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Genus Solanum Family Solanaceae

Description: Annual or perennial herbs, shrubs or small trees, sometimes trailing or climbing, hairy with glandular or simple or stellate to bristly non-glandular hairs, rarely glabrous; prickles present or absent.

Leaves usually alternate, sometimes paired, simple or pinnate, margins entire or lobed, petiolate.

Inflorescences cyme-like, often becoming raceme-like, subumbellate or panicle-like, terminal, lateral, axillary, extra-axillary or leaf-opposed. Flowers usually bisexual, actinomorphic or slightly zygomorphic. Calyx campanulate, rotate or cup-shaped, usually 5-lobed. Corolla stellate and deeply incised to rotate, rarely campanulate, purple, blue, white or yellow, usually 5-lobed. Stamens 5, usually equal, inserted in throat of corolla; anthers 2-locular, basifixed, cohering and cone-like around style or not cohering, dehiscing by terminal pores or slits. Ovary mostly 2-locular; stigma terminal, capitate or bifid.

Fruit a succulent or bony berry, ± globose. Occurs in all habitats except alpine, aquatic and saline. Many occur as weeds. Cosmopolitan.


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 1500 species, Central & South America, Africa, Australia. Australia: 117 species (87 species endemic), all States.

Text by B. J. Conn
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Solanum acanthodapis,    Solanum amblymerum,    Solanum ammophilum,    Solanum armourense,    Solanum bauerianum,    Solanum betaceum,    Solanum celatum,    Solanum chrysotrichum,    Solanum curvicuspe,    Solanum dianthophorum,    Solanum ditrichum,    Solanum eremophilum,    Solanum hapalum,    Solanum jucundum,    Solanum laxum,    Solanum limitare,    Solanum lycopersicum,    Solanum mitchellianum,    Solanum neoanglicum,    Solanum nobile,    Solanum rixosum,    Solanum sarrachoides,    Solanum semiarmatum,    Solanum serpens,    Solanum shirleyanum,    Solanum silvestre,    Solanum stenopterum,    Solanum sulphureum,    Solanum torvum,    Solanum viarum,    Solanum vicinum

 Key to the species 
1Prickles absent2
Prickles present25
2Climbing or sprawling herbs and shrubs3
Herbs, shrubs or small trees, usually erect, never climbing
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6
3Anthers dehiscing by terminal pores only4
Anthers dehiscing by terminal pores and lateral slits
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5
4Leaves 3-lobed, lobes entire; berry yellow-green, 4–5 mm diam.; branches frequently rooting at nodesSolanum radicans
Leaves 7–9-lobed, lobes toothed; berry marbled whitish green, 8–12 mm diam.; branches not rooting at nodes
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Solanum triflorum
5Leaves entire (juvenile leaves deeply lobed); berry 7–9 mm diam.; seeds glabrousSolanum jasminoides
Leaves usually 3–9-lobed; berry 10–12 mm diam.; seeds hairy
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Solanum seaforthianum
6Corolla white or white with a purple tinge and yellow-green centre7
Corolla pale blue, blue-violet, violet to deep purple-blue
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14
7Calyx 1–3.5 mm long8
Calyx 4–5 mm long
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13
8Shrubs to 3 m high; leaves glabrous except for tufts of hairs in axils of veins on lower surface; berry bright orange-yellowSolanum spirale
Soft-wooded annual or short-lived perennial herbs, usually less than 1 m high; leaves glabrous or with hairs not restricted to vein axils; berry purple-black, green or reddish
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9
9Mature berry black or red10
Mature berry green
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12
10Fruiting peduncle sharply deflexed from its baseSolanum chenopodioides
Fruiting peduncle erect ascending or curved downwards
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11
11Mature berry shiny; seeds usually more than 40 per fruit, 1–1.5 mm longSolanum americanum
Mature berry dull; seeds usually 20–35 per fruit, 1.8–2.2 mm long
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Solanum nigrum
12Indumentum of glandular hairs; calyx lobes 2–4 mm long and 2–5 mm wide in fruit; berry 5–8 mm diamSolanum physalifolium
Indumentum predominantly of non-glandular hairs; calyx lobes 1–2.5 mm long and less than 2 mm wide in fruit; berry 8–10 mm diam
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Solanum opacum
13Petioles 1–10 cm long; inflorescences branched, many-flowered; peduncle to first fork 3–8 cm long; berry dull yellow; densely and softly hairy, with hairs stellate to bristlySolanum erianthum
Petioles 0.5–1.5 cm long; inflorescences unbranched, short, 1–few-flowered; peduncle 0–1 cm long; berry bright orange-red; glabrous or sparsely hairy with hairs simple or branched but not stellate
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Solanum pseudocapsicum
14Leaves with 1 or 2 small sessile stipule-like leaves at base of petioleSolanum mauritianum
Leaves lacking additional small stipule-like leaves
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15
15Entire leaves usually more than 10 times long as broad (undulate to lobed leaves also present)16
Entire leaves 2–8 times long as broad (usually with undulate to lobed leaves also present)
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17
16Fruiting pedicels mostly less than 3 cm long; berry 15–20 mm diam., ochre-yellow with purple markingsSolanum linearifolium
Fruiting pedicels mostly 3–5 cm long; berry 20–25 mm diam., greenish ivory
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Solanum vescum
17Lobed leaves deeply lobed; corolla 20–30 mm diam.; berry green or tinged purpleSolanum simile
Lobed leaves undulate to shallowly lobed or all leaves entire; corolla 15–40 mm diam.; berry white, greenish white, yellowish, bright red to brownish black
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18
18Plant hairy, often densely so, with stellate hairs19
Plant glabrous except for minute glandular hairs on young points, corolla apices and buds
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24
19Berry bright red, 5–8 mm diam20
Berry white, greenish white, yellowish or brown-black, 10–20 mm diam
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21
20Leaves 6–9 cm long, 3–5 cm wide; petioles more than 1 cm longSolanum densevestitum
Leaves 3–6 cm long, 1.5–2.5 cm wide; petioles less than 1 cm long
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Solanum nemophilum
21Leaves with upper surface sparsely hairy or glabrous22
Leaves with upper surface densely hairy
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23
22Leaves lanceolate, with lower surface woolly; berry 15–20 mm diamSolanum brownii
Leaves more or less oblong, with lower surface densely hairy, but not woolly; berry 10–15 mm diam
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Solanum tetrathecum
23Berry dry, yellow maturing to brownSolanum sturtianum
Berry succulent, yellow to light yellow-brown
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Solanum esuriale
24Corolla lobes acute; berry orange-red to scarletSolanum aviculare
Corolla lobes notched; berry orange-yellow
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Solanum laciniatum
25Hairs predominately simple or glandular, or hairs absent26
Hairs predominately stellate
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29
26Corolla stellate and deeply incised; leaves broad-ovate; berry 20–35 mm diam., bright orange-redSolanum capsicoides
Corolla campanulate, stellate and shallowly incised, or rotate; leaves ovate or elliptic; berry 10–25 mm diam., usually green, yellow or white
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27
27Fruiting calyx largely enclosing berry, sometimes splittingSolanum hystrix
Fruiting calyx not enclosing berry
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28
28Leaves glabrous or very sparsely hairy, with lobes cut to more than two-thirds of the way to midveinSolanum papaverifolium
Leaves hairy, with lobes cut less than two-thirds of the way to midvein
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Solanum adenophorum
29Fruiting calyx surrounding or enclosing at least three-quarters of berry30
Fruiting calyx not surrounding berry
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35
30Berry mostly enclosed in or surrounded by lobes of persistent calyx31
Berry mostly enclosed in enlarged calyx tube
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34
31Berry red32
Berry green, yellow or white
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33
32Leaves lobed, lower lobes often forming leaflets; corolla white or pale blue; berry 15–20 mm diam.; fruiting calyx pricklySolanum sisymbriifolium
Leaves entire or almost so when mature, juvenile leaves shallowly lobed; corolla violet or purple; berry 5–8 mm diam.; fruiting calyx not prickly
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Solanum densevestitum
33Glandular and stellate hairs present on all partsSolanum campanulatum
Glandular hairs absent or confined to calyx
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Solanum petrophilum
34Flowers yellow, zygomorphic; berry erect, dry and paperySolanum rostratum
Flowers purple, actinomorphic; berry usually pendent, not dry and papery
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Solanum karsense
35Berry red, orange-red or blackish red, never brownish36
Berry green, whitish, yellow or purple, often drying to yellow- or orange-brown, brown or black
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45
36Leaves entire sometimes sinuate (in Solanum elegans), if basal lobes present, then linear37
Leaves lobed, at least in part, and broad, never linear
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41
37Leaves linear to lanceolate, 0.2–2 cm wide38
Leaves ovate, broad-ovate or elliptic, 1–14 cm wide
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40
38Leaves concolorous or slightly discolorous, usually prickly, often with 2 basal lobesSolanum ferocissimum
Leaves distinctly discolorous, with few or no prickles, rarely with basal lobes
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39
39Corolla deeply stellate, 10–15 mm diam.; berry 5–8 mm diamSolanum parvifolium
Corolla shallowly stellate, 25–30 mm diam.; berry 10–15 mm diam
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Solanum elegans
40Leaves distinctly discolorous, sparsely hairy on upper surfaceSolanum stelligerum
Leaves slightly discolorous, densely hairy on upper surface
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Solanum nemophilum
41Corolla 10–20 mm diam42
Corolla 25–35 mm diam
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44
42Branches with scattered pricklesSolanum chenopodinum
Branches densely to moderately prickly
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43
43Plant hairs with stellate and minutely glandular hairs; upper leaf surface sparsely hairy; corolla bluish purple; seeds pale brownSolanum stelligerum
Plant hairy with stellate hairs only; upper leaf surface glabrous or with hairs confined to veins; corolla white or violet; seeds pale yellow or pale orange
                       Back to 42
Solanum corifolium
44Pedicels and calyx with stellate hairs onlySolanum elegans
Pedicels and calyx with stellate, simple and glandular hairs
                       Back to 41
Solanum inaequilaterum
45Leaves distinctly lobed usually at least 1/4 way to midvein46
Leaves entire or shallowly lobed
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52
46Hairs dense to moderately dense on upper leaf surfaceSolanum adenophorum
Hairs sparse on upper leaf surface
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47
47Anthers 2–2.5 mm longSolanum prinophyllum
Anthers 3–6 mm long
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48
48Leaves concolorous or slightly discolorous; berry 20–30 mm diam49
Leaves usually distinctly discolorous; berry 10–25 mm diam
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50
49Berry yellow; inflorescence a 1–3-flowered clusterSolanum pungetium
Berry yellow, maturing to brown or black; inflorescence a 1–6-flowered raceme
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Solanum linnaeanum
50Prickles bright red or orange-red; flowering calyx lobes 1–2 mm long; berry 10–15 mm diamSolanum lacunarium
Prickles pale yellow or pale orange; flowering calyx lobes 2.5–5 mm long; berry 15–25 mm diam
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51
51Lower leaf surface densely woolly; flowering calyx lobes triangularSolanum brownii
Lower leaf surface densely hairy, not woolly; flowering calyx lobes usually linear
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Solanum cinereum
52Leaves broad-ovate, 0.8–2 cm longSolanum oligacanthum
Leaves oblong to narrow-ovate, ovate or elliptic (juvenile leaves of Solanum furfuraceum broad-ovate, to 17 cm long and to 12 cm wide), mostly more than 2 cm long
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53
53Leaves shallowly lobed54
Leaves entire and usually slightly undulate, or sinuate
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58
54Leaves with upper surface sparsely hairy, often distinctly discolorous55
Leaves with upper surface densely hairy, concolorous or slightly discolorous
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56
55Lower leaf surface densely woolly, hairs pale yellow or pale green; seeds 2.5–3.5 mm long; leaves usually narrow-ovateSolanum brownii
Lower leaf surface moderately woolly or not woolly, hairs bright yellow or rusty; seeds 1.5–2 mm long; leaves usually broad-ovate
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Solanum furfuraceum
56Prickles usually red; leaves silvery green; flowering peduncle ± 10 mm long; anthers 5–8 mm longSolanum elaeagnifolium
Prickles never red; leaves grey-green or pale green, occasionally rusty-green; flowering peduncle 5–40 mm long; anthers 2.5–5 mm long
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57
57Leaves 1–4 cm wide; corolla 10–15 mm diam., pale lavender, often remaining closed; anthers 2.5–3 mm longSolanum cleistogamum
Leaves 0.5–1.5 cm wide; corolla 15–25 mm diam., purple; anthers 4–5 mm long
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Solanum esuriale
58Upper leaf surface sparsely hairy or glabrous59
Upper leaf surface densely hairy
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61
59Leaves ovate to elliptic, less than 2.5 times long as broadSolanum furfuraceum
Leaves oblong or narrow-ovate, more than 2.5 times long as broad
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60
60Leaves narrow-ovate, with lower surface woolly; berry 15–20 mm diamSolanum brownii
Leaves more or less oblong, with lower surface not woolly; berry 10–15 mm diam
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Solanum tetrathecum
61Berry dry, yellow maturing to brown-blackSolanum sturtianum
Berry bony or succulent, yellow, green, purple or orange-brown
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62
62Berry hard and bony, often with lower half enclosed by calyx; prickles abundant on calyxSolanum quadriloculatum
Berry succulent, with lower half not enclosed by calyx; prickles absent from calyx (except Solanum cleistogamum)
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63
63Berry pale yellow-green, often with purple tinge; branches sprawling or prostrate64
Berry yellow, yellow-brown or orange-brown; branches usually erect, rarely sprawling
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65
64Corolla 10–15 mm long; anthers 2.5–3 mm long; berry 10–13 mm diamSolanum cleistogamum
Corolla 20–30 mm long; anthers 4.5 mm long; berry 15–20 mm diam
                       Back to 63
Solanum ellipticum
65Peduncles 10–40 mm long; berry ovoid, obovoid or almost globose, with apex acuteSolanum esuriale
Peduncles to 10 mm long; berry globose or depressed-globose
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66
66Flowering calyx lobes awl-shaped; calyx 9–10 mm longSolanum elaeagnifolium
Flowering calyx lobes triangular; calyx 4–8 mm long
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67
67Prickles 2–5 mm long; pedicels 10–15 mm long; seeds pale brownSolanum coactiliferum
Prickles to 10 mm long; pedicels usually 5–10 mm long; seeds light grey
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Solanum tetrathecum

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