Photo: M.Fagg ANBG

Photo: Anon.  ANBG (A2223)

Photo: M.Fagg ANBG

Photo: M.Fagg ANBG

S. brownii is now confined to specimens from Coonabarabran to Blue Mountains (Bean 2004). See Distribution.


Solanum brownii Dunal, Hist. Nat. Solanum 201 (1813)

S. violaceum R. Br., Prodr. 445 (1810), nom. illeg., non Ortega, Hort. Matr. Decas 56 (1797). 

T: Paterson's River, N.S.W., Oct. 1804, R. Brown s.n.; lecto: BM; iso: K, fide D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 249 (1981).  An image of the lectotype specimen of Robert Brown can be seen on the Solanaceae Source site.

S. elegans Dunal in Poir., Encycl., Suppl. 3: 769(1814). T: t. 58 of unpublished illustrations in Dunal Herbarium, MPU, fide Symon (1981): AD.

S. violaceum var. album Maiden & Betche, Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 2nd ser., 29: 747 (1905).

T: Mt Dangar, Gungal, near Merriwa, N.S.W., Sept. 1904, J.L. Boorman s.n.; syn: NSW; Wallsend, N.S.W. Sept. 1904, J.L. Boorman s.n.; n.v.

[Modified after Bean 2001 - the identity of varieties scabrum and variegata of S. violaceum previously treated under S. brownii is unclear. ]

S. violaceum var. scabrum Benth., Fl. Austral. 4: 452 (1868); S. violaceum f. scabrum (Benth.) Domin, Biblioth. Bot. 89: 582 (1929).

T: New South Wales, Vicary s.n.; holo: K; New South Wales, C. Moore s.n.; syn: n.v. 

S. violaceum var. variegata R. Baker, Proc. Linn. Soc. New South Wales 21: 458 (1896). 

T: Rylstone - Goulburn River Districts, N.S.W., R.T. Baker s.n.; n.v.


Erect shrub to 2 m, dark green, pubescent with stellate hairs, the hairs sparse on upper leaf-surface, dense and woolly on lower surface, peduncle and pedicels; prickles 3-9 mm long, usually sparse on stems, occasional or rare elsewhere.

Adult leaves lanceolate; lamina mostly 6.5-13 cm long, 14-29 mm wide,  discolorous, oblique or symmetrical basally, entire or with 1-3 shallow obtuse lobes on each side; petiole 7-15 mm long, prickles rarely present. Juvenile leaves with lamina c. 10 cm long and 3 cm wide, elliptical in outline, shallowly to deeply lobed with 2-3 pairs of obtuse lobes, prickly above and below or only on upper surface.  

Inflorescence 5-8-flowered; peduncle to 10 mm long; rachis 10-20 mm long; pedicels 13-18 mm long. Calyx 6.5-10.5 mm long; lobes triangular to narrowly triangular, 2.5-5 mm long. Corolla broadly stellate to rotate, 22-32 mm diam., purple or rarely, white. Anthers 4.5-6 mm long.  

Berry globular, 18-29 mm diam., pale green to yellow-green. Seeds 2.7-3.0 mm long, pale bone-coloured.

[Description modified after recircumscription by Bean, 2001. Bean's more detailed description of this species can also be accessed on the web at].

Distribution and ecology

Now considered to be of restricted distribution, S. brownii occurs in an area centred on the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. It is found as far north as Coonabarabran and south to the Blue Mountains.

It is found in eucalypt woodland with a dense understory of shrubs, particularly in areas of disturbance.

[Updated after Bean 2001]

The distribution map generated above from Australia's Virtual Herbarium indicates the older concept of S. brownii. For a more up to date map visit the AVH site through your local herbarium.

Common name

Violet Nightshade


The highly variable eastern coast species identified as S. brownii, S. cinereum and S. elegans in Symon 1981 were revised in 2001 by Bean (Telopea 9: 639-661).

This resulted in a much narrower circumscription for S. brownii and S. cinereum, the reinstatement of S. amblymerum Dunal (treated by Symon as a synonym of S. elegans) and S. curvicuspe Domin and the reduction of S. elegans to a synonym of S. brownii. An additional six new species were described to encompass the variation encountered - S. armourense, S. celatum, S. limitare, S. neoanglicum, S. nobile and S. silvestre .

S. brownii is considered by Bean (2004) to be a member of the S. macoorai group of subgen. Leptostemonum.



A group at the RBG Sydney is investigating the horticultural potential of the S. brownii group along with their genetic relationships. A report on their findings can be seen in Marchant et al. (2008).

Reference: Marchant, A. Perkins, P. Orel, G & Towler, G. (2008). Exploring the horticultural potential of native Australian flowering shrubs in the Solanum brownii group. Final report to the Australian Flora Foundation.

Derivation of epithet

Named after the well-known botanist, Robert Brown (1773-1858). Brown accompanied Matthew Flinders on the voyage of the Investigator  (1801-5) to Australia and was responsible for the description of many new Australian species based on his own collections from the voyage.

Selected specimens

N.S.W.: 24.1 km from Rylstone towards Bylong, A.R.Bean 17209 (AD,BRI,MEL,NSW); Honeysuckle Creek, Murrumbo-Kerrabee, L.A.S.Johnson s.n. (AD,NSW).

[modified after Bean 2001]

From the web

Images of early herbarium collections of this species by Robert Brown, Allan Cunningham and others can be seen on the Solanaceae Source site.