N. tabacum leaves, Sydney Botanic Gardens. Photo J.R. Croft.

Flowering and fruiting inflorescences, Sydney Botanic Gardens. Photo J.R. Croft.

Flowers, Sydney Botanic Gardens. Photo J.R. Croft.

Image from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887). See Web links below for access to a bigger image.

Line drawing from A.B.Rendle's (1925) The classification of Flowering Plants (Cambridge University Press).

Nicotiana tabacum: reproduced from Engler & Prantl's Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien IV 3b fig. 15 (1897).

Seed (WA Michelmore, AD99339022). Photo İ Bob Baldock.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium, May 2006.


Nicotiana tabacum L., Sp. Pl. 180 (1753).

T: "Habitat in America, nota Europaeis ab 1560". lecto: Herb. Linn. 245.1 (LINN) fide Setchell in Univ. Calif. Publ. Bot. 5 : 6 (1912). See the Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project


A leafy viscid annual or short-lived perennial to 2 m high; all parts with dense glandular hairs.  

Leaves to 45 cm long, 20 cm wide, generally decreasing in size up stem and reduced to linear bracts within inflorescence, elliptic or ovate to lanceolate; petiole winged, somewhat auriculate and decurrent down stem.  

Inflorescence a dense terminal panicle. Pedicel 5-7 mm long. Calyx tubular, up to 2 cm long (including acuminate lobes). Corolla to 5 cm long; tube enlarging to distinct throat cup and expanded limb; lobes triangular, acute to acuminate, usually pink. Staminal filaments up to 30 mm long, inserted in lower half of corolla-tube; upper 4 anthers at the same level or nearly so.  

Capsule dehiscing by 4 valves, ellipsoid to ovoid, 10–15 mm long. Seeds oblong to spherical; testa with serpentine reticulation.

Distribution and ecology

A major world crop plant which is grown in Australia. Naturalised (presumably as a result of escape from cultivation) in the Moreton and North Kennedy regions in Queensland, and also in NSW, Vic and possibly Tas.

Robert Brown recorded the species as already growing "on rubbish-heaps and by roadsides" near the fledgling colony of Sydney between 1802-4 (J.Britten, J. Bot. (1906) 44: 234).


Originally from South America, tobacco is now a major world drug crop. In Australia it is cultivated as a crop in the eastern states and sporadically by individuals elsewhere. Remnant crop plants are known to occur but it is unknown whether the species is truly naturalised.

Selected specimens

NSW: Philip St, Sydney, R. Southcott s.n. (AD); Vic: Porepunkah (cult.), D.E. Symon 15185 (AD).


Web links

Further information on this species in NSW can be seen on the PlantNET site.

There are some high resolution images of this species at

The detailed image of N. tabacum from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants (1887) can be accessed under “Tobacco” at

Further information about this species can be accessed through the Plants Profile site of the US Department of Agriculture.

And there are innumerable sites on the web dealing with the history, culture and effects of tobacco.