East Baines River, NT. Photo: D.E. Symon 1791 D.E. Symon

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 283, fig. 128.

Flower with pollen-collecting bee. Photo: D.E.Symon 3358 D.E.Symon

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.


Solanum eburneum Symon, Trans. Roy. Soc. S. Austral. 95: 228; fig. 2 (1971)

T: c. 19 km E of East Baines River, N.T., 19 May 1971, D.E. Symon 6954; holo: CANB; iso: AD ex ADW, K, NT, PERTH.


Sprawling, clonal, herbaceous perennial or subshrub to 0.5 m wide, grey-green, densely pubescent with stellate hairs; prickles to 5 mm long, common on stems, and on pedicel and calyx of bisexual flower, less common elsewhere.  

Leaves usually ovate to elliptic; lamina 2.5-8 cm long, 1-4 cm wide, usually deeply lobed; petiole 10-25 mm long.  

Inflorescence of one bisexual flower below elongating cyme of 3-many male flowers; peduncle to 10 mm long. Bisexual flower: pedicel c. 10 mm long, lengthening in fruit; calyx 7-10 mm long, the lobes narrowly triangular, several often partly fused, 5-6 mm long, lengthening in fruit; corolla pentagonal, 30 mm diam., purple; anthers 5-7 mm long. Male flowers similar: pedicels 5-8 mm long.  

Berry globular, 15-25 mm diam., whitish to pale green or yellow when ripe; fruiting pedicel 2-3 cm long; fruiting calyx-lobes 1-2 cm long. Seeds 2-2.5 mm long, very dark brown or black. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Restricted to East Baines River area, north-western N.T., usually in disturbed sites along roadsides, in seasonally dry Melaleuca swamps or on flats with heavy grey soil.

The map generated by the AVH above, is at odds with the distribution statement that the species is restricted to the East Baines River area. This may be because of later collections, because of misidentifications or mis-plottings of latitude and longitude.


An andromonoecious species i.e. one in which there are male flowers and bisexual flowers on the one plant. Often there are many male flowers in an inflorescence with 1(-2) bisexual flowers at their base.

While this species usually has only one bisexual flower at the base of the inflorescence, occasional specimens do produce more than one bisexual flower. For instance, in the collection Symon 12125 from between East Baines River area of N.T., one or two small fruits have formed on the rachis above the usual larger fruit at the base of the whole inflorescence. Whether these extra fruits develop fully is not known.

Andromonoecious species of the Dioicum group in Australia include S. beaugleholei, S. clarkiae, S. chippendalei, S. diversiflorum, S. eburneum, S. heteropodium, S. melanospermum, S. oedipus and S. phlomoides .

Symon (1981) indicated that S. eburneum was most closely related to the other andromonoecious species, S. diversiflorum, and to a lesser extent, S. chippendalei . The DNA studies of Martine et al. (2006) did not include S. eburneum but it was thought that S. diversiflorum , together with S. chippendalei, S. beaugleholei, S. phlomoides and probably S. eburneum formed one of three clades for the andromonoecious species of the Dioicum group of subgen. Leptostemonum.

However further molecular analysis involving the trnK-matK gene region has now indicated that all of the Australian andromonoecious species (except for S. campanulatum , S. cinereum and S. stupefactum) should be combined to form a single clade which also includes two African andromonoecious species and the Australian hermaphrodite species S. hoplopetalum (Martine et al., 2009).

References: Martine, C.T., D. Vanderpool, G.J. Anderson, and D.H. Les (2006). Phylogenetic relationships of andromonoecious and dioecious Australian species of Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum section Melongena: Inferences from ITS sequence data. Systematic Botany 31: 410-420; Martine, C.T., G.J. Anderson & D.H. Les (2009). Gender-bending aubergines; molecular phylogenetics of cryptically dioecious Solanum in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 22: 107-120.


The pollen-collecting bee of the image is presumably the Halictid bee, Nomia lyonsiae, collected by Anderson & Symon in 1980 and deposited in the Western Australian Museum (WAM 7264) - see Plant Pollination Index Query of MuseumVictoria.


Selected specimens

N.T: 24 km E of East Baines River, D.E. Symon 5229 (AD, NSW, NT, PERTH); 24 km W of East Baines River, D.E. Symon 6956 (CANB, NT).

Plant status, if any

Conservation status as a plant of least concern in theNorthern Territorysee