Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 117, fig. 37.

From Curtis's Botanical Magazine t. 1921 (1817).

Detail from Curtis's Botanical Magazine t. 1921 (1817).

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.


Solanum giganteum Jacq., Collectanea 4: 125 (1791).

T: In regione interiore ad Promontorium bonae Spei crescit [near Cape of Good Hope, S. Africa], Herb. Jacquin; holo: ?W (n.v.). An image of an isolectotype in W can be seen on the Aluka site.


Large shrub or small tree to 4 m, dark green with white stellate pubescence on stems and undersurface of leaves; hairs dense on lower leaf-surface, sparser on upper surface; prickles stout, conical, 2–5 mm long, mostly on stems, sparser on petioles and leaves.

Leaves elliptic; lamina up to 17cm long and 8.5 cm wide, discolorous, base rounded or cuneate, subequal, margin entire, apex acute; petiole 3–4 cm long, densely pubescent.

Inflorescence dense, corymb-like,  branched, with up to 100 nodding flowers; pedicels 10 mm long, deflexed in flower, erect in fruit. Calyx 2–5 mm long; lobes triangular, 1.5–2.5 mm long. Corolla stellate, 15–20 mm diam., lilac. Anthers 2–3 mm long.

Berries numerous, globular, 6–8 mm diam., green, drying shining red and the blackish-red. Seeds 2–3 mm diameter, yellowish. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Native to east Africa. Sometimes grown in Australian gardens and recorded as naturalised in WA (2006); SA populations shoen on the AVH map above re mostly plants in gardens.

Common name

African Holly (Africa), Red Bitter-apple, Healing-leaf tree


S. giganteum was treated as part of the Giganteum group of subg. Leptostemonum by Whalen (1984); the group consisted of African species with broad-based prickles, a distinctive inflorescence type and red berries; it was considered to be close to the Dunalianum group.  

S. giganteum was not included in Levin et al.'s (2006) DNA analysis of the relationships of subg. Leptostemonum but other members of the Giganteum group were and there was support for the group and its relationship to the Dunalianum group.



Not treated in the earlier Flora of Australia treatment because it has never been recorded as naturalised. However most collections seen record it as an adventive within gardens and so it has been included in the key.

This white-stemmed shrub with large conical prickles and markedly discolorous leaves should be easily identified. It has numerous nodding flowers in a corymb-like inflorescence, followed by numerous reddish-black fruits held erect on the pedicel.

S. giganteum may well have the capacity to invade native vegetation if it can occur spontaneously within gardens.

From the web

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

Information can be found on the South African National Biodiversity Institute's plant information site.

An illustration can be found in Jacquin’s digitised Icones Plantarum Rariorum and photographs on the Jardin exotique de Roscoff site.

Herbarium specimens of this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.