Potato and Nightshade Family

Mostly annual, biennial or perennial herbs and vines, occasionally trees and shrubs, often with prickles and/or branched hairs. Leaves mostly alternate, simple, lobed, pinnate or trifoliate; stipules absent. Flowers mostly bisexual, insect-pollinated, regular, solitary or in cymose clusters. Sepals usually 5, united, often persistent and enlarging in fruit. Petals 5 (rarely 4 or 6), united, appearance ranging from wheel-like to tubular, the lobes often pleated, sometimes irregular and 2-lipped. Stamens mostly 5, usually alternating with the petals and attached to the tube, the anthers sometimes converging. Ovary superior, of 2(-5) fused carpels, mostly 2-chambered and with axile placentation. Fruit a berry, drupe or dehiscent capsule containing numerous seeds.

Regarded as closely related to the Scrophulariaceae but with different anatomy and gynoecium. Many species contain alkaloids - chemicals that have medicinal, hallucinogenic or poisonous properties: several have been used as sources of pharmaceutical drugs. Rarely cultivated plants include: Anthocercis viscosa R. Br., Sticky Ray Flower, from WA, a sticky shrub with fragrant, white, star-like flowers; Duboisia leichhardtii (F. Muell.) F.Muell., Corkwood, from southern Queensland, cultivated as a hybrid in warmer climates for hyoscine, an alkaloid used in medicinal drugs, and probably toxic to both stock and humans; Fabiana imbricata Ruiz & Pav., an ornamental sticky shrub from Chile; and Hyoscyamus niger L., Henbane, from temperate Eurasia, occasionally offered in herb nurseries and naturalised in scattered localities in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Lycium is a genus of spiny shrubs formerly cultivated. Two species have naturalised and become environmental pests: the South African L. ferocissimum Miers, African Boxthorn, which occurs in all states and has become a noxious weed in New South Wales and much of Victoria; and Chinese Boxthorn, L. barbarum L. which occurs in mostly coastal South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Vestia foetida Hoffmanns. from Chile is occasionally offered; it is a Cestrum-like shrub with yellow-green flowers and badsmelling leaves. [V. lycioides Willd.]

Many plants are edible and economically important, including: Capsicum, Capsicum, Chilli, Peppers; Lycopersicon esculentum, Tomato; Physalis, Cape Gooseberry; and Solanum, Eggplant, Potato, Tamarillo. Plants with medicinal or hallucinogenic alkaloids include: Atropa belladonna, Deadly Nightshade; Brugmansia, Angel's Trumpet; Brunfelsia; Datura, Thornapple; Duboisia; Hyoscyamus niger, Black Henbane; Mandragora, Mandrake; Nicotiana, Tobacco; and Solandra, Chalice Vine.

Mostly 5 stamens attached to the petals; ovary of 2 carpels with axile placentation maturing to form a berry or capsule.

About 90 genera and 2600 species, near cosmopolitan but with a centre of distribution in C and S America. Australia has 23 genera with about 200 species (see Flora of Australia, Vol. 29).

Hawkes et al. (1979), Purdie et al. (1982), D'Arcy (1986), Hawkes et al. (1991).

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Solanaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Solanales
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
genus        Atropa L.
genus        Browallia L.
genus        Brugmansia Pers.
genus        Brunfelsia Pers.
genus        Capsicum L.
genus        Cestrum L.
genus        Iochroma Benth.
genus        Lycianthes Hassl.
genus        Lycopersicon Mill.
genus        Nicotiana L.
genus        Nierembergia Ruiz & Pav.
genus        Petunia Juss.
genus        Physalis L.
genus        Salpichroa Miers
genus        Salpiglossis Ruiz & Pav.
genus        Schizanthus Ruiz & Pav.
genus        Solandra (L.) Sw.
genus        Solanum L.
genus        Streptosolen Miers