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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 is the largest genus in the nightshade family Solanaceae, comprising around 1,500 species. It also contains the so-called horse nettles (unrelated to the genus of true nettles, Urtica), as well as numerous plants cultivated for their ornamental flowers and fruit.

Solanum species show a wide range of growth 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.[2]

Species having the common name "nightshade"[edit]

The species most commonly called nightshade in North America and Britain is Solanum dulcamara, also called bittersweet or woody nightshade (so-called because it is a (scandent) shrub). 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. Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) is also generally considered poisonous, but its fully-ripened fruit and its foliage are both cooked and eaten in some areas. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) belongs, like Solanum, to subfamily Solanoideae of the nightshade family, but, unlike that genus, is a member of tribe Hyoscyameae (Solanum belongs to tribe Solaneae).[3] The chemistry of Atropa species is very different from that of Solanum species and features the very toxic tropane alkaloids, the best-known of which is atropine.[4]

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,[5] Kauai, Lanai, Marion, Maui, Molokai, Niihau, Oahu, Owyhee, Parma, Payette, Red Lode, Super Star, Surecrop, Tuckers Forcing, V 121, Vantage, Vetomold, and Waltham.)[6]
  • Potato, S. tuberosum, fourth largest food crop.
    • Less important but cultured relatives used in small amounts include S. stenotomum, S. phureja, S. goniocalyx, S. ajanhuiri, S. chaucha, S. juzepczukii, S. curtilobum.
  • 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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[1]

A recent study built a densely sampled species-level phylogeny for Solanum comprising 60% of all accepted species based on full plastome dataset and nuclear target-capture data.[9] While the taxonomic framework of Solanum remained stable, researchers observed gene tree conflicts and discordance between phylogenetic trees generated from the target-capture and plastome datasets. The latter corresponded to regions with short internodal branches, and network analysis and polytomy tests suggested the backbone is composed of three polytomies found at different evolutionary depths. The strongest area of discordance, near the crown node of Solanum, was found to be a hard polytomy. Currently, the most likely explanation for the discordance along the backbone of Solanum is due to incomplete lineage sorting (ILS) caused by rapid speciation. Presence of short internal branches is typical of ILS in lineages with large population sizes and high mutation rates. This fits with the biology of Solanum in general, which is typically known to contain “weedy”, disturbance-loving pioneer species resilient to change. Many species are known to have large geographical ranges and ecological amplitude.[9] Some of the weedy characteristics found in these species include the ability to improve fitness and defense traits in response to disturbance, as well as having allelopathic properties which allow them to establish themselves to the detriment of native vegetation. If such characteristics were present in ancestral Solanum, they could have promoted rapid speciation across the globe, followed by rapid morphological evolution and speciation within areas. The patterns observed here could possibly be the result of three major rapid speciation “pulses” across the evolutionary history of Solanum. The idea of an ecologically opportunistic ancestor is supported by the tendency of many of the major clades to occupy periodically highly stressed and disturbed habitats, including flooded varzea forests, hyper-arid deserts, and highly disturbed and dynamic open mid-elevation Andean montane habitats, where landslides are among the most common areas where many of the species are found.[9] The idea that well-supported and fully bifurcating phylogenies are a requisite for evolutionary studies is built on the premise that such trees are the accurate way of representing evolution. The shift in systematics from “tree”- to “bush”-like thinking, where polytomies and reticulate patterns of evolution are considered as acceptable or real, comes from the accumulation of studies finding similar unresolvable phylogenetic nodes, despite using different large-scale genomic sampling strategies and various analytical methods. We argue that acknowledging and embracing polytomies and reticulation is crucial if we are to design research programs aimed at understanding the biology of large and rapidly radiating lineages, such as the large and economically important Solanum.[9]

Subgenus Bassovia[edit]

Section Allophylla

Section Cyphomandropsis

Section Pachyphylla

Subgenus Leptostemonum[edit]

Section Acanthophora

Section Androceras: 12 spp.[10]

  • 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. ^ a b "Solanum L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2013-07-15.
  2. ^ Quattrocchi, U. (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: Vol. 4, R-Z. Taylor and Francis. p. 2058. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3.
  3. ^ Armando T. Hunziker 2001: The Genera of Solanaceae. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag, Ruggell, Liechtenstein. ISBN 3-904144-77-4.
  4. ^ Frohne, Dietrich and Pfänder, Hans Jürgen. 1984 A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants : A Handbook for Pharmacists, Doctors, Toxicologists, and Biologists transl. from 2nd German ed. by Norman Grainger Bisset, London : Wolfe Atlases. Wolfe Publishing.
  5. ^ "Purple tomato debuts as 'Indigo Rose'". Extension Service. Oregon state university. 2012-01-27. Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  6. ^ "Vegetable Cultivar Descriptions for North America | Cucurbit Breeding". NCSU. Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  7. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  8. ^ a b "Solanum Phylogeny". Solanaceae Source. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
  9. ^ a b c d Gagnon, E.; Hilgenhof, R.; Orejuela, A.; et al. (2022). "Phylogenomic discordance suggests polytomies along the backbone of the large genus Solanum". American Journal of Botany. 109 (4): 580–601. doi:10.1002/ajb2.1827. PMC 9321964. PMID 35170754.
  10. ^ Whalen, Michael D (1979). "Allozyme Variation and Evolution in Solanum Section Androceras". Systematic Botany. 4 (3): 203–222. doi:10.2307/2418419. JSTOR 2418419.
  11. ^ "Factsheet – Solanum cataphractum". Electronic Flora of South Australia. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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. 16 (2): 161–67. doi:10.3417/1055-3177(2006)16[161:SPASCN]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1055-3177. S2CID 85629504.
  14. ^ Ochoa, C. M. (2006). "Solanum tergosericeum (Solanaceae sect. Basarthrum): A new species from Peru" (PDF). Phytologia. 88 (2): 212–15. doi:10.5962/bhl.part.27433.
  15. ^ Reina, Antonio Maria MARTINEZ; Zumaqué, Lilibeth Tordecilla; Martínez, Liliana María Grandett; Pinto, María del Valle Rodríguez (2020-08-25). "Adopcion Adopción de la variedad de berenjena C015 (Solanum melongena L.) en la región Caribe colombiana: measuring adoption". Ciencia y Agricultura (in Spanish). 17 (3): 1–10. doi:10.19053/01228420.v17.n3.2020.11062. ISSN 2539-0899. S2CID 225303476.

External links[edit]