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South Stradboke Island. Photo: G.Leiper G.Leiper

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 114, fig. 35, as S. hispidum.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Synonymy

Solanum chrysotrichum Schldl., Linnaea 19: 304–305 (1847) 

T: Mexico (Estado?) Las Troyes, Scheide 81; ?holo:  HAL,  per M. Nee. 

[Solanum hispidum auct. non Pers.: Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 113 (1981); Purdie et al., Fl. Australia 29: 121 (1982).]

Description

Shrub or small tree to 4 m, green, pubescent with stellate hairs, the stems rusty; prickles 2-6 mm long, usually sparse on petioles and leaf veins.  

Leaves broadly ovate, the lamina up to 40 cm long and 30 cm wide, commonly c. 25 x 20 cm, lobed; petiole to 18 cm long.  

Inflorescence branched, up to 50-flowered; peduncle 1-2 cm long to first fork; pedicels 10-15 mm long. Calyx 7-10 mm long; lobes acuminate, 4-6 mm long. Corolla stellate, 30-45 mm diam., white. Anthers 7-9 mm long.  

Fruiting pedicel up to 5 mm diam. below calyx. Berry globular, 10-15 mm diam., yellow or orange-yellow, drying brown. Seeds 2 mm diam., light brown. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Native to tropical Central America.

Sparingly naturalised in disturbed sites in Brisbane area, south-eastern Qld and on north coast of NSW and in the East Gippsland region of Victoria.

Common name

Giant Devil's Fig.

Relationships

Michael Nee (NY) has made the comment on specimens in AD that the material of S. hispidum from Costa Rica and Panama is a complex of species of southern Central America and NW Panama, not fully resolved in Flora of Panama (see also Solanaceae Source  for a discussion of this).

The complex  involves S. chrysotrichumS. torvum, both present in Australia, and S. pluviale.

S. chrysotrichum and S. torvum are both considered by Bean (2004) to belong to the S. torvum group of subg. Leptostemonum. Levin (2006) also assigned them to the Torvum clade (see Solanaceae Source).

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Notes

Since the name S. hispidum has been misapplied in the past to S. chrysotrichum it is assumed that records still listing S. hispidum for Australia are not correct e.g. http://wilsonscreeklandcare.mullum.com.au/weeds/devils_fig.html

The two species are difficult to tell apart but according to Solanaceae Source S. hispidum has a very much larger and more open inflorescence.

Selected specimens

QLD:  Ferny Hills, Fernland Estate, Cabbage Tree Creek,  R.Booth 2500 (AD, BRI); NSW: Tuntable Creek road, ESE of Nimbin, Sep. 1994, A.R.Bean 7933 (BRI, NSW);  VIC: SE of Orbost. old Corringle. Night soil dump near Newmerella, 18 Oct. 1994, D.Krajca 1 & A.Turnbull-Ward (AD, MEL).

Plant status, if any

A declared noxious weed in the Brisbane City council area of Qld - see www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/BCC:BASE::pc=PC_2090.

From the web

For Australia, an image of the foliage, fruits and flowers can be seen on the Bean interactive key site at http://delta-intkey.com/solanum/images/solchryso001.jpg

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

A photograph of this species by Hugh & Nan Nicholson can be seen on the Terania Rainforest Publishing Photo Library site.

Images of the plant as a weed can be seen on the south-eastern Queensland Save Our Waterways Now site.

Further information, images and links for this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.

Used traditionally in Mexico for the treatment of tinea. Recent studies have shown it to be effective and 5 anti-fungal agents have been isolated from the species. There are numerous reports of this on the web.
 
For South Africa there is an illustration of the species in Wellman (2003) but a fact sheet can be accessed through their Weeds & Invasive Plants site.  

Reference: Welman, W.G. (2003). The genus Solanum (Solanaceae) in southern Africa: subgenus Leptostemonum, the introduced sections Acanthophora and Torva. Bothalia 33: 6, fig. 3A.