Yellow Wood, Qld. Photo: G. Leiper G. Leiper

Point Nepean NP, Vic.  Photo: J.R. Hosking  J.R. Hosking

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4 (1981) 265, fig. 117.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.


Solanum linnaeanum Hepper & Jaeger Kew Bull. 41: 434–435 (1986). Replacement name for the illegitimate S. hermannii.

T: South Africa, Bosch Berg, June 1813, W. J. Burchell 3238, holo: K, fide Hepper & Jaeger loc. cit. supra.

S. hermannii Dunal Hist. nat. Solanum (1813); S. sodomeum var. hermannii (Dunal)Dunal in DC., Prodr. 13: 366 (1852); nom. illeg.

[S. sodomeum auctt. plur. non L. Sp. Pl. (1753)].

The tortuous nomenclatural history of this species and its associated name change is given in F. N. Hepper & P.-M. L. Jaeger. Name changes for two old world Solanum species. Kew Bull. 41: 434–435 (1986) and is summarised on the Solanaceae Source  site.


Often rounded shrub to 1 m, dark green, pubescent with stellate and some simple glandular hairs, the hairs sparse on upper leaf-surface, denser on lower surface; prickles to 15 mm long, common on most parts.  

Leaves elliptic, the lamina mostly 4-8 cm long, 3-6 cm wide, concolorous, deeply lobed; larger lobes sinuate; petiole 1-2 cm long.  

Inflorescence short, 3-6-flowered; peduncle absent or short; pedicels 10-15 mm long. Calyx 7-8 mm long; lobes lanceolate, 2-4 mm long. Corolla rotate-stellate to pentagonal, 15-20 mm diam., pale purple-blue. Anthers 4.5-6 mm long.

Berry globular, 2-3 cm diam., brown or black. Seeds 2-3 mm long, light brown or mustard coloured. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Native to South Africa and the Mediterranean basin; introduced to many countries including Australia, where it was first collected by Robert Brown in the Sydney region in 1802-4 (see Brown's list of introduced plants for the Sydney region reproduced in Journal of Botany 44: 234-5) and is probably the species depicted by John Lewin in his illustration between 1803 and 1808 - see image 165 in Lewin's album in the NSW Library at;seq=161 where the species is already referred to as naturalised.  

Naturalised in Qld, N.S.W., Vic., S.A. and W.A., usually in urban waste places, roadsides and rough pastures. It is a Declared Plant in Australia.  

Commonly associated with calcareous soils, often in near-coastal areas.

Common name

Apple of Sodom - see the Solanaceae Source page for an explanation of the source of this name.


Part of the S. incanum group, together with S. marginatum, S. stupefactum and S. incanum, of subgen. Leptostemonum  according to Bean (2004).

The Levin et al. (2006) molecular analysis placed the species as sister to an African species, S. sessilistellatum Bitter (?= S. nigriviolaceum Bitter) and in a different grouping from S. marginatum. S. stupefactum was also shown to be not part of the Bean grouping.

Molecular studies by T.L.Weese & L.Bohs: Eggplant origins: out of Africa, into the Orient. Taxon 59: 49-56 (2010), confirm the close relationships with S. incanum and S. linnaeanum, but indicate a more distant relationship with S. marginatum.



Fruits can be poisonous to sheep and children; green fruits are more toxic than ripe ones.

Derivation of epithet

This species was long referred to as S. sodomeum but when it was found that a new name was required it was named in honour of Linnaeus, the founder of the binomial nomenclature system. See F.N. Hepper & P.-M.L. Jaeger. Name changes for two old world Solanum species. Kew Bull. 41: 434–435 (1986) or a summary on the Solanaceae Source site.

Selected specimens

W.A.: Yalgorup National Park, S. Paust 1412 (PERTH).S.A.: Hindmarsh Tiers, Nov. 1967, D. Davidson (AD). Qld: Brisbane, J.R. Clarkson 35 (BRI). N.S.W.: Narrabeen Lakes, M. Gray 6789 (CANB). Vic.: Ricketts Point, Port Phillip Bay, H.I. Aston 939 (MEL).

Plant status, if any

A declared noxious weed in Vic., Tas. and parts of W.A. - see

Discussion of its status as a weed may be found in W. T. Parsons & E. G. Cuthbertson, Noxious Weeds of Australia, Inkata Press, Melbourne, 1992. Further information and an excellent series of images can also be found in Navie, S. (2004). Declared Plants of Australia. An identification and information system. (Centre for Biological Information Technology, Brisbane).

From the web

Further information and links can be found on the Weeds in Australia site.

A fact sheet for this species can be downloaded from the SA eFlora site as S. hermanni.

A fact sheet for S. linnaeanum, with images, can be found on the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticultural site and a comprehensive selection of images can be seen at the Plants of Hawaii site.

Images can also be seen on the FloraBase site.

S. linnaeanum as a weed in the Pacific is treated on the Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) site.

Comprehensive information, images and links for this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.