Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4 (1981) 94, fig. 25.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium .


Solanum erianthum D. Don, Prodr. Fl. Nepal. 96 (1825) 

T: Valley in Nepal near Kalamanda, 1821, Wallich Herb. 2616C; lecto: K, fide K.E. Roe, Brittonia 19: 359 (1967). 

[ S. verbascifolium auct. non L.; G. Bentham, Fl. Austral. 4: 449 (1869)]


Shrub or small tree to 8 m, often with flattened, spreading crown, green or grey-green, densely pubescent with stellate hairs; prickles absent.  

Leaves ovate-elliptic; lamina 8-24 cm long, 4-15 cm wide, slightly discolorous, entire; petiole 1-10 cm long.  

Inflorescence branched, many-flowered; peduncle to first fork 3-8 cm long; pedicels 5-10 mm long. Calyx 4-7 mm long; lobes triangular, 1-2.5 mm long. Corolla stellate, 13-19 mm diam., white. Anthers 2.5-3 mm long.  

Berry globular, 10 mm diam., dull yellow, pubescent. Seeds 1.5-2 mm long, dull yellow.

Distribution and ecology

Originally from tropical Central America, and now widespread in south-east Asia and to a less extent in west tropical Africa.  

In 1982 documented as occuring in near-coastal eastern Australia in Qld and north-eastern N.S.W. The recently generated distribution map also shows (MEL) specimens from Arnhem Land.

Sometimes regarded as native to Australia, presumably because it was collected by Robert Brown from Broad Sound and Shoalwater Bay, but it is more likely to represent a pre-European settlement introduction - see A.R.Bean (2007). A new system for determining which plant species are indigenous in australia. Aust. Syst. Bot. 20: 1-43.   

Usually associated with disturbed habitats in high rainfall areas.

Common name

Potato Tree, Tobacco Tree, Mullein Nightshade (USA).


A member of subg. Brevantherum, species of which are usually shrubby, have stellate hairs, and have many-branched corymbose inflorescences.

Other species of this group found in Australia are S. mauritianum and S. abutiloides.


Selected specimens

Qld: N of Boonah, L.W. Jessup & M. Olsen 263 (BRI); Pine Mt, W.T. Jones 276 (CANB). N.S.W.: Whian Whian State Forest, H.C. Hayes, J. Turner, D.J. McGillivray 2599 (NSW).

From the web

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

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

References to this species as a weed can be found in the Global Compendium of Weeds.

A comprehensive fact sheet on S. erianthum inAfrica, with images, can be found on the PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) site

Further information about this species in the US can be accessed through the Plants Profile site of the US Department of Agriculture.

Images of Solanum erianthum can be seen on the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants and in CalPhotos

Images of herbarium specimens can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.