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Temporal range: Eocene to Recent[1]
Starr 020323-0062 Solanum seaforthianum.jpg
Brazilian nightshade (Solanum seaforthianum)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Subfamily: Solanoideae
Tribe: Solaneae
Genus: Solanum

(but see text)


Androcera Nutt.
Aquartia Jacq.
Artorhiza Raf.
Bassovia Aubl.
Battata Hill
Bosleria A.Nelson
Ceranthera Raf.
Cliocarpus Miers
Cyphomandra Mart. ex Sendtn.
Diamonon Raf.
Dulcamara Moench
Lycopersicon Mill.
Melongena Mill.
Normania Lowe
Nycterium Vent.
Ovaria Fabr.
Parmentiera Raf. (non DC.: preoccupied)
Petagnia Raf.
Pionandra Miers
Pheliandra Werderm.
Pseudocapsicum Medik.
Scubulus Raf.
Solanastrum Fabr.
Solanocharis Bitter
Solanopsis Bitter
Triguera Cav.

Unripe fruit of Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)

Solanum is a large and diverse genus of flowering plants, which include three food crops of high economic importance: the potato, the tomato and the eggplant (aubergine, brinjal). It also contains the nightshades and horse nettles, as well as numerous plants cultivated for their ornamental flowers and fruit.

Solanum species show a wide range of growing habits, such as annuals and perennials, vines, subshrubs, shrubs, and small trees. Many formerly independent genera like Lycopersicon (the tomatoes) and Cyphomandra are now included in Solanum as subgenera or sections. Thus, the genus today contains roughly 1,500–2,000 species.


The generic name was first used by Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) for a plant also known as strychnos, most likely S. nigrum. Its derivation is uncertain, possibly stemming from the Latin word sol, meaning "sun", referring to its status as a plant of the sun.[3]


The species most commonly called nightshade in North America and Britain is Solanum dulcamara, also called bittersweet or woody nightshade. Its foliage and egg-shaped red berries are poisonous, the active principle being solanine, which can cause convulsions and death if taken in large doses. The black nightshade (S. nigrum) is also generally considered poisonous, but its fully ripened fruit and foliage are cooked and eaten in some areas. The deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is not in the genus Solanum, but is a member of the family Solanaceae.

Food crops[edit]

Most parts of the plants, especially the green parts and unripe fruit, are poisonous to humans (although not necessarily to other animals), but many species in the genus bear some edible parts, such as fruits, leaves, or tubers. Three crops in particular have been bred and harvested for consumption by humans for centuries, and are now cultivated on a global scale:

  • Tomato, S. lycopersicum
    • Tomato varieties are sometimes bred from both S. lycopersicum and wild tomato species such as S. pimpinellifolium, S. peruvianum, S. cheesmanii, S. galapagense, S. chilense, etc. (Such varieties include—among others—Bicentennial, Dwarf Italian, Epoch, Golden Sphere, Hawaii, Ida Red, Indigo Rose,[4] Kauai, Lanai, Marion, Maui, Molokai, Niihau, Oahu, Owyhee, Parma, Payette, Red Lode, Super Star, Surecrop, Tuckers Forcing, V 121, Vantage, Vetomold, and Waltham.)[5]
  • Potato, S. tuberosum, fourth largest food crop.
  • Eggplant (also known as brinjal or aubergine), S. melongena

Other species are significant food crops regionally, such as Ethiopian eggplant or gilo (S. aethiopicum), naranjilla or lulo (S. quitoense), Turkey berry (S. torvum), pepino or pepino melon (S. muricatum), Tamarillo (S. betaceum), wolf apple (S. lycocarpum), garden huckleberry (S. scabrum) and "bush tomatoes" (several Australian species).


The species most widely seen in cultivation as ornamental plants are:


Poisonings associated with certain species of Solanum are not uncommon and may be fatal. However, several species are locally used in folk medicine, particularly by native people who have long employed them.


Solanum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species (butterflies and moths) – see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Solanum.


The genus was established by Carl Linnaeus in 1753.[7] Its subdivision has always been problematic, but slowly some sort of consensus is being achieved.

The following list is a provisional lineup of the genus' traditional subdivisions, together with some notable species.[7] Many of the subgenera and sections might not be valid; they are used here provisionally as the phylogeny of this genus is not fully resolved yet and many species have not been reevaluated.

Cladistic analyses of DNA sequence data suggest that the present subdivisions and rankings are largely invalid. Far more subgenera would seem to warrant recognition, with Leptostemonum being the only one that can at present be clearly subdivided into sections. Notably, it includes as a major lineage several members of the traditional sections Cyphomandropsis and the old genus Cyphomandra.[2]

Subgenus Bassovia[edit]

Section Allophylla

Section Cyphomandropsis

Section Pachyphylla

Subgenus Leptostemonum[edit]

Section Acanthophora

Section Androceras: 12 spp.[8]

  • Series Androceras
  • Series Violaceiflorum
  • Series Pacificum

Section Anisantherum
Section Campanulata
Section Crinitum
Section Croatianum
Section Erythrotrichum

Section Graciliflorum[verification needed]
Section Herposolanum

Section Irenosolanum

Section Ischyracanthum
Section Lasiocarpa

Section Melongena

Section Micracantha

Section Monodolichopus
Section Nycterium
Section Oliganthes

Section Persicariae

Section Polytrichum
Section Pugiunculifera
Section Somalanum
Section Torva

Subgenus Lyciosolanum[edit]

Subgenus Solanum sensu stricto[edit]

Currant tomato (S. pimpinellifolium) fruit
Andean black potatoes (S. tuberosum)
Turkey berry (S. torvum) flowers

Section Afrosolanum
Section Anarrhichomenum

Section Archaesolanum

Section Basarthrum

Section Benderianum
Section Brevantherum

Section Dulcamara

Section Herpystichum
Section Holophylla

Section Juglandifolia

Section Lemurisolanum
Section Lycopersicoides

Section Lycopersicon

Section Macronesiotes
Section Normania

Section Petota

Section Pteroidea
Section Quadrangulare
Section Regmandra
Section Solanum

Other notable species[edit]

Forked nightshade (S. furcatum)
Bluewitch nightshade (S. umbelliferum) flowers

Formerly placed here[edit]

Lycianthes rantonnetii and its congeners were often placed in Solanum

Some plants of other genera were formerly placed in Solanum:


  1. ^ "Fossilworks: Solanaceae".
  2. ^ a b "Solanum L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  3. ^ Quattrocchi, U. (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Vol. 4, R-Z. Taylor and Francis. p. 2058. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3.
  4. ^ "Purple tomato debuts as 'Indigo Rose' | OSU Extension Service". 2012-01-27. Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  5. ^ "Vegetable Cultivar Descriptions for North America | Cucurbit Breeding". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  6. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  7. ^ a b "Solanum Phylogeny". Solanaceae Source. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  8. ^ Whalen, Michael D (1979). "Allozyme Variation and Evolution in Solanum Section Androceras". Systematic Botany. 4 (3): 203–222. doi:10.2307/2418419. JSTOR 2418419.
  9. ^ "Factsheet – Solanum cataphractum". Electronic Flora of South Australia. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  10. ^ Tepe, E. J.; Ridley, G.; Bohs, L. (2012). "A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany". PhytoKeys (8): 37–47. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.8.2101. PMC 3254248. PMID 22287929.
  11. ^ a b Anderson, G. J.; Martine, C. T.; Prohens, J.; Nuez, F. (2006). "Solanum perlongistylum and S. catilliflorum, New Endemic Peruvian Species of Solanum, Section Basarthrum, Are Close Relatives of the Domesticated Pepino, S. muricatum". Novon: A Journal for Botanical Nomenclature. 16 (2): 161–167. doi:10.3417/1055-3177(2006)16[161:SPASCN]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1055-3177.
  12. ^ Ochoa, C. M. (2006). "Solanum tergosericeum (Solanaceae sect. Basarthrum): A new species from Peru" (PDF). Phytologia. 88 (2): 212–215. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.27433.

External links[edit]