Solanum sturtianum

Distribution Map
Family: Solanaceae
Distribution: Widespread in arid regions of central Australia.
Common Name: Sturt's or Thargomindah nightshade
Derivation of Name: Solanum...probably from Latin, solamen, solice or comfort, referring to the reputed narcotic properties of the type species, S.nigrum.
sturtianum... After Charles Sturt, an explorer and botanist.
Conservation Status: Not considered to be at risk in the wild.

General Description:

Solanum is a very large genus of about 1700 species with about 80 species native to Australia. Economically it is an important genus as it includes a number of human food crops including potato, tomato and egg plant. The Australian species include important "bush tucker" plants (eg. Solanum ellipticum) but they also include species with poisonous fruits (including the fruits of Solanum sturtianum).

Solanum sturtianum
Solanum sturtianum
Photo: Brian Walters

Solanum sturtianum is a small to medium, erect shrub which may reach 3 metres in height. The stems may or may not have small prickles. The leaves are silvery grey or grey-green about 50 mm long and elliptical in shape. The very attractive purple flowers are about 30-40 mm diameter with conspicuous yellow anthers and occur throughout the year. The fruits which follow the flowers are about 10-15 mm diameter and are yellow to dark brown in colour.

Solanums, generally, are scorned as garden plants as most tend to be untidy in their growth habits and have a "weedy" appearance. However, they add a welcome splash of vivid colour. S.sturtianum probably has limited horticultural potential but could be worth considering for gardens in dry climates provided the plants are not accessible to children or animals. For best results, the plant should be grown in full sun.

Propagation can be carried out from seed. However, the pulp may inhibit germination and it should be washed off the seeds. Cuttings are also reported to be successful.

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