Photo: Anon. NT 239   ANBG

Photo: Anon. NT 239   ANBG

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 197, fig. 80.

Sketch of fruits by D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4 (1981) fig 153 A & B.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.


Solanum echinatum R. Br., Prodr. 447 (1810)

T: Island h (North Is., Sir Edward Pellew Group, Gulf of Carpentaria), R. Brown s.n.; lecto: BM; iso: E, K, MEL, MPU; fide D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 197 (1981). An image of the type in BM can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.

S. ellipticum var. pannifolium Cunn. ex Benth., Fl. Austral. 4: 464 (1868).

T: Cambridge Gulf, NW coast, A. Cunningham s.n.; lecto: BM; iso: K; fide D.E. Symon, op. cit. 198. An image of the type in BM can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.

S. wilkinsii S. Moore, J. Bot. 64: 95 (1926).

T: Groote Eylandt, N.T., Mar. 1925, S.H. Wilkins 131; holo: BM, fide D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 198 (1981).

Bean (2004) comments that S. wilkinsii may prove to be a distinct species but treats S. seitheae as a synonym of S. echinatum. Clearly more work is needed in this area.


Annual or short-lived perennial herb, erect and up to 50 cm high, or nearly prostrate and to 2 m across, bright rusty-green or grey-green, densely pubescent with stellate hairs; prickles 4–6 mm long, scattered to abundant on stems, petioles, peduncles and calyx, rare or absent elsewhere.


Leaves ovate to ovate-lanceolate; lamina mostly 3–6 cm long, 2–3 cm wide, slightly discolorous, usually entire; petiole usually 1–3 cm long.


Inflorescence 2–5–flowered; peduncle to 4 cm long; rachis 1–2 cm long; pedicels c. 1 cm long. Calyx 4–6 mm long, enlarged in fruit; lobes triangular, 2–3 mm long. Corolla broadly stellate to pentagonal, 20–30 mm diam., purple. Anthers 4–5 mm long. Fruiting calyx-tube 10–15 mm diam.


Berry depressed globular, squarish in outline, 10–15 mm diam., pale ivory-green when ripe, drying light brown. Seeds 2–2.5 mm long, dark liver-coloured. n=12.

This description from Flora of Australia 29: 143 (1982) would have included specimens now treated as S. longissimum A.R.Bean


A more detailed description of Bean's somewhat differently circumscribed species can be seen at



Distribution and ecology

Occurs on mainland northern Australia and adjacent offshore islands, from the Kimberley region of W.A. to the Bourke region of the Gulf of Carpentaria in north-western Qld.  

Associated with rocky outcrops, or sandy and alluvial debris at base of outcrops.


The colour of pubescence, leaf size and prickliness of calyx is variable in S. echinatum. It is closely related to S. seitheae Symon from which it is distinguished by its smaller stature and smaller fruiting calyx.


Bean (2004) treated S. seitheae as part of S. echinatum but distinguished S. longissimum as different on the basis of its very long petioles, over half the length of the blade. Further differences include

·         branchlets with 3-80 prickles per dm for S. longissimum vs 200-660 for S. echinatum

·         branchlet prickles 6-10 times longer than wide for S. longissimum vs 10-20 times for S. echinatum

·         acute calyx lobes, 1-2.5 mm long, for S. longissimum vs rostrate to attenuate lobes, 3-6 mm long, for S. echinatum

Part of the Echinatum group of subgen. Leptostemonum  along with S. lucani and S. longissimum according to Bean (2004).


Information on the food composition of the fruit of S. echinatum can be accessed through the NUTTAB 2006 (Nutrient Tables for use in Australia) database of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Always take care that the fruit you are going to eat is correctly identified - some native Solanum species are poisonous.

Reported to be one of the favourite foods of the black wallaroo in Arnhem Land (see but the implication is that the whole plant is eaten, not just the fruit. Rock-rats of Nourlangie Rock in Arnhem Land were also found to have S. echinatum in their droppings.

References: R.J. Begg & C.J.Dunlop (1985). The diets of the Large rock-rat, Zyzomys woodwardi, and the Common rock-rat, Z. argurus. Aust.Wildl.Res. 12: 19-24; W.R. Telfer & M.J. Garde (2006). Indigenous knowledge of Rock kangaroo ecology in Western Arnhem Land, Australia. Human Ecology 34: 379-406.


Selected specimens

W.A.: c. 100 km S of Gibb River Stn, D.E. Symon 7149 (PERTH). N.T.: S of Mt Brockman, R.E. Fox 431 (DNA); near Cannon Hill, P. Martensz AE667 (BRI, CANB, NT); Arnhem Land, D.E. Symon 7968 (AD, BRI, NT); QLD: Wernadinga Stn, D.E.Symon 4995 (AD, B, BRI, CANB, K, US).

Plant status, if any

Conservation status as a plant of least concern in theNorthern Territorysee

From the web

An image of S. echinatum can be seen on the Canberra Botanic Gardens site at and on the FloraBase site.

Images of S. echinatum in cultivation can be seen on the Radboud University, Nijmegen (Netherlands) site (see the Solanaceae database).  This garden specialises in maintaining the most extensive ex situ plant collection of non-tuberous species of Solanaceae.

An image of a long-stalked stellate hair in this species can be seen in the Bean interactive key at to the eastern Australian species of Solanum at

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