Foliage with flower and fruits. Photo: T. Low © T. Low

Line drawing of branch with flowers and fruits by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981).

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium. For a more up to date map visit the AVH site through your local herbarium.


Solanum americanum Miller, Gard. Dict. 8th edn, no. 5 (1768) 

T: Cultivated Chelsea Physic Garden, origin Virginia, North America, Miller s.n.; lecto: BM, fide J.M. Edmonds, J. Arnold Arbor. 52: 634 (1971), photo AD.

S. nodiflorum Jacq., Collectanea 2: 288 (1789) & Icon. Pl. Rar. 2: 11; t. 326 (1789). 

T: Cultivated Vienna, origin Mauritius, Herb. Jacquin; lecto: BM, fide R.J.F. Henderson, Contr. Queensland Herb. 16: 28 (1974).

S. nodiflorum subsp. nutans R. Henderson, Contr. Queensland Herb. 16: 30; t. 2 (1974).

T: Indooroopilly, Qld, Apr. 1969, R.J.F. Henderson 518; holo: BRI 86633; iso: K, MEL, NSW. 

[S. nigrum auct. non L.; G. Bentham, Fl. Austral. 4: 446 (1869) p.p.]


Erect or spreading herb or short-lived perennial shrub to 1.3 m, glabrous or sparsely pubescent with simple hairs, green or the stems and leaves often purplish; prickles absent. Stems often angled or narrowly winged.  

Leaves ovate or ovate-lanceolate; lamina 2–12 cm long, 1–7 cm wide, concolorous, entire or shallowly lobed; petiole 1–4 (occasionally to 9) cm long.  

Inflorescence short, 4–12–flowered; peduncle to 25 mm long, lengthening to 45 mm in fruit; pedicels 5–8 mm long. Calyx 1–2 mm long; lobes rounded, 0.4–1.2 mm long. Corolla deeply incised, usually 8–9 mm diam., white or flushed purple with yellow-green centre. Anthers 1.5–2 mm long.  

Berry globular, 6–9 mm diam., purple-black. Seeds 1–1.5 mm long, light fawn or purplish; stone-cell granules, if present, c. 0.5 mm diam. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

A variable cosmopolitan weed in tropical and warm temperate regions. Usually grows in disturbed habitats associated with human activities.  

Occurs mainly in coastal areas of eastern Qld and N.S.W., where possibly indigenous or of pre-European introduction, and in scattered localities in Vic., W.A. and N.T. where naturalised from later introductions. Also on Lord Howe Is.

Common name

Glossy Nightshade.


Part of the S. nigrum or "Black nightshade" group of species, usually referred to as cosmopolitan weeds and usually thought to have originated in the Americas. They are characterised by their lack of prickles and stellate hairs, their white flowers and their green or black fruits arranged in an umbelliform fashion.

The species can be difficult to distinguish. Other species to occur in Australia are S. chenopodioides, S. douglasii, S. furcatum, S. nigrum, S. opacum, S. physalifolium, S. retroflexum, S. sarrachoides, S. scabrum and S. villosum.



A useful reference to the Black Nightshades is J. M. Edmonds & J. A. Chweya, The Black Nightshades. Solanum nigrum and its related species. Int. Plant. Genetic Res. Inst. Rome (1997). This can be downloaded from 

There has been some disagreement as to the correct name for this species; it was previously called S. nodiflorum Jacq. in much Australian literature - recent work using African material has shown that their material under this name is deserving of species status.

Reference: M.L.K. Manoko, R.G. van den Berg, R.M.C. Feron, G.M. van der Weerden & C. Mariani (2007). AFLP markers support separation of Solanum nodiflorum from Solanum americanum sensu stricto (Solanaceae). Pl. Syst. Evol. 267: 1–11. Downladable at

This species is extremely widespread throughout warm temperate and tropical areas. In Africa, New Guinea and Oceania the young green shoots are cooked and eaten as greens.

Some members of the complex have long been important food and medical sources in parts of Africa,India, Indonesia and China. Leaves are used as herbs or as vegetables, fruits are edible and provide dye and the plants have been used for various medicinal treatments. However other parts of the complex are poisonous. Because of this it is important to develop techniques for distinguishing between the species and the work to develop genetic markers is ongoing, particularly in Africa where these plants can provide a more easily obtained food resource than imported foods. Of the species which occur in Australia S. americanum, S. scabrum and S. villosum are all considered to be edible.


References: Keller, G.B. (2004). African nightshade, eggplant, spiderflower et al. - production and consumption of traditional vegetables in Tanzania from the farmer's point of view. MSc dissertation, George-August University, Gottingen.; Mwai GJ, Onyango, JC & Abukusta-Onyango, M (2007) Taxonomic identification and characterisation of African nightshades (Solanum L. Section Solanum). AJFAND Online 7(4); Olet EA, Heun M, & Lye KA (2005). African crop or poisonous nightshade; the enigma of poisonous or edible black nightshade solved. African Journal of Ecology 2005; 43: 158-161.


Selected specimens

W.A.: South Perth, R.D. Royce 8408 (PERTH). N.T.: Adelaide River, 22 Nov. 1972, J. Holmes (DNA, NT). Qld: Belmont, S.L. Everist 5606 (BRI). N.S.W.: Kogarah, E.F. Constable 5633 (NSW). Vic.: E of Marlo, 7 Feb. 1972, J.H. Willis (MEL).

From the web

Images of S. americanum can be accessed through the description of this species in Bean's interactive key at

Further information and images of this species in NSW can be seen on the PlantNET site for WA on the FloraBase site and for SA on the eFlora site.

Images and information on this species in California can be accessed through the Encycloweedia pages at or and in Missouri at

Further information on this species in America is available through the Plants Profile site of the US Department of Agriculture and the Plants of Hawaii site. Both sites have numerous images. It is treated for the Pacific on the PIER site at

A comprehensive fact sheet on S. americanum in Africa, with images, can be found on the PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) site

Work on African material using AFLP markers has supported the recognition of a separate species for material previously treated under either S. americanum or as a separate species, S. nodiflorum.

Reference: M.L.K. Manoko, R.G. van den Berg, R.M.C. Feron, G.M. van der Weerden & C. Mariani (2007). AFLP markers support separation of Solanum nodiflorum from Solanum americanum sensu stricto (Solanaceae). Pl. Syst. Evol. 267: 1–11. Downladable at