Photo: D.E.Symon 2838 D.E.Symon

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 141, fig. 50.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.  


Solanum discolor R. Br., Prodr. 445 (1810)

T:Coen River, Gulf of Carpentaria, 6 Nov. 1802, R. Brown s.n.; lecto: BM n.v., photo AD; fide D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 140 (1981).


An image of the type specimen can be seen on the Solanaceae Source site.

S. defensum F. Muell., Fragm. Phytogr. Austral. 5: 193 (1866) – see treatment as a separate species.


Erect shrub to 1 m, green; stems and petioles pubescent with minute stellate hairs, leaves sparsely pubescent to glabrous on both surfaces; prickles to 7 mm long, frequent on older stems, scattered on leaf-surfaces.  

Leaves lanceolate-elliptic; lamina 9–18 cm long, 2–5 cm wide, concolorous, shallowly lobed; lobes bluntly triangular; petiole 1–2 cm long.  

Inflorescence up to 12–flowered, upper flowers male, lower flowers bisexual; peduncle 10–30 mm long; pedicels 10–15 mm long, elongated in fruit. Bisexual flowers: calyx 3–4 mm long, the lobes triangular, 2–3 mm long; corolla stellate, deeply incised, 15–20 mm diam., violet; anthers 5–6 mm long. Male flowers similar.  

Berry 10–15 mm diam., blood-red; fruiting pedicel 15–25 mm long. Seeds 3–4 mm long, pale buff, winged on one side. n=24.

 This description from Flora of Australia also included S. defensum , now treated as a separate species, and elements of S. corifolium . Bean's description of the more narrowly circumscribed S. discolor is reproduced below, with permission, from Austrobaileya 6: 690 (2004).  

Erect, rhizomatous perennial shrub, 0.5–2 m high. Juvenile stage unknown. Adult branchlets yellow or brown; prickles absent or present, 0–10 per decimetre, straight, acicular, 2–6 mm long, 10–16 times longer than wide; stellae very dense, 0.25–0.4 mm diameter, stalks 0–0.1 mm long; lateral rays 7 or 8, porrect; central ray 0.2–0.8 times as long as laterals, not gland-tipped; finger hairs absent; Type 2 hairs absent.  

Adult leaves lanceolate, elliptical or ovate, entire or shallowly lobed throughout; lobes 3–6 on each side, obtuse, lobing index 1–1.3; lamina 7–10 cm long, 1.6–4.5 cm wide, 2.3–4.3 times longer than broad, apex acute or acuminate, base cuneate, oblique part 0–3 mm long, obliqueness index 0–4 percent; petioles 0.4–0.9 cm long, 4–10% length of lamina, prickles absent. Upper leaf surface green; prickles 0–7, straight, acicular, 3–5 mm long, prickles absent or present on midvein only or present on midvein and lateral veins; stellate hairs absent, or confined to midrib; ordinary stellae absent from surface; finger hairs absent; Type 2 hairs absent. Lower leaf surface white or yellowish; prickles absent; stellae very dense, c. 0.05 mm apart, 0.3–0.5 mm diameter, stalks 0–0.1 mm long; lateral rays 8–9, porrect; central ray 0.1–0.5 times as long as laterals, not gland-tipped; finger hairs absent; Type 2 hairs absent.  

Inflorescence leaf-opposed or supra-axillary, pseudo-racemose, common peduncle 0–2 mm long, rachis prickles absent; 7–20-flowered, strongly or weakly andromonoecious, flowers 5-merous; pedicels 2–9 mm long at anthesis, same thickness throughout, 0.2–0.4 mm thick at mid-point, prickles absent. Calyx tube 0.5–1.5 mm long, lobes deltate, 0.5–2 mm long; prickles absent at anthesis; stellae dense to very dense, white, 0.25–0.4 mm across, sessile, lateral rays 6–8, central ray 0.5–1 times as long as laterals, not gland-tipped; finger hairs absent; Type 2 hairs absent. Corolla mauve, 3–7 mm long, deeply lobed, inner surface glabrous; anthers 2.5–4 mm long; ovary glabrous.  

Fruiting calyx with lobes less than half length of mature fruit, prickles absent. Mature fruits 1 or 2 per inflorescence, globular, 10–14 mm diameter, red, 1-locular (septum absent or incomplete); placenta not apparent; mesocarp juicy, succulent; exocarp 0.4–0.5 mm thick; pedicels 13–18 mm long in fruit, 0.5–0.8 mm thick at mid-point; seeds pale yellow, 2.6–3.6 mm long.    

Another detailed description of this species can be found on the Bean interactive key site at

Distribution and ecology

Known only from Cape York Peninsula between Mapoon and 'Silver Plains'. Found in depauperate vine thicket on stranded sand dunes (Bean 2004).


In 2002, A.R.Bean described two new prostrate species of Solanum from easternAustralia. He also resurrected the name S. discolor var. procumbens C.T.White for prostrate specimens of this normally erect species. The two closely related new species, S. acanthodapis and S. serpens , can be distinguished from S. discolor var. procumbens by their stellate hairs with a distinct central ray, this ray being absent in var. procumbens.

S. discolor var. procumbens was later (Bean 2006) described as a new species, S. mentiens Bean.

Reference: Bean, A.R. (2002). New prostrate species of Solanum subg. Leptostemonum (Dunal)Bitter (Solanaceae) from eastern Australia. Austrobaileya 6: 247-252.

S. discolor is placed in the S. ferocissimum  group of subgen. Leptostemonum together with S. chenopodinumS. corifoliumS. defensum, S. dissectum, S. dryanderense, S. dysprosiumS. ferocissimum, S. fervens, S. inaequilaterum, S. latens, S. lythrocarpum, S. mentiens, S. parvifolium, S. shirleyanum, S. stelligerum and S. yirrkalense (Bean 2004).


The delimitation of S. discolor by Bean differs from that of Symon (1981). The earlier circumscription apparently included some elements of S. corifolium F.Muell., now removed, and with the distribution of S. corifolium extending further north in Qld.

S. defensum , also treated as a synonym of S. discolor by Symon, has now been treated by Bean (2004) as a separate species.


Selected specimens

Qld: 'Silver Plains', S of Scrubby Creek and W of Colmer Pt, Jun 1995, P.Forster 17061 (AD, BRI, MEL, QRS).

From the web

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