Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4 (1981) 55, fig. 9.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium .


*Solanum villosum Miller, Gard. Dict. 8th edn, no. 2 (1768) 

T: Cultivated Chelsea Physic Garden, origin Barbados, Miller; lecto: BM n.v., fide J.M. Edmonds, Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 78: 219 (1979), photo AD.


Herb, usually annual, to 70 cm, green, slightly to densely pubescent with glandular or simple, non-glandular hairs; prickles absent.

Leaves ovate, the lamina up to 8 cm long, commonly c. 4 cm, 3–6 cm wide, concolorous, entire or shallowly lobed; petiole to 4.5 cm long.  

Inflorescence short, 3–8–flowered; peduncle and pedicels c. 1 cm long. Calyx 1.2–2 mm long; lobes semi-elliptic, 1 mm long. Corolla shallowly incised, 8–15 mm diam., white. Anthers 1.5–2.2 mm long.  

Berry almost globular, 5–9 mm diam., dull orange-red. Seeds 1.7–2.3 mm long, pale yellow. n=24.

Distribution and ecology

Widespread weed in Europe, Mediterranean countries, northern Africa and North America. Sparingly naturalised in Qld, S.A. and W.A.  

A weed of tobacco crops in Qld.

Common name

Woolly Nightshade


Part of the S. nigrum or "Black nightshade" group of species, usually referred to as cosmopolitan weeds and usually thought to have originated in the Americas. They are characterised by their lack of prickles and stellate hairs, their white flowers and their green or black fruits arranged in an umbelliform fashion.

The species can be difficult to distinguish, but this species has orange berries. Other species to occur in Australia are S. americanum, S. chenopodioides, S. furcatum, S. douglasii, S. opacum, S. physalifolium, S. retroflexum, S. sarrachoides, S. scabrum and S. nigrum.

A useful reference to the Black Nightshades is J. M. Edmonds & J. A. Chweya, The Black Nightshades. Solanum nigrum and its related species. Int. Plant. Genetic Res. Inst. Rome (1997).



Some members of the complex have long been important food and medical sources in parts of Africa,India, Indonesia and China. Leaves are used as herbs or as vegetables, fruits are edible and provide dye and the plants have been used for various medicinal treatments. However other parts of the complex are poisonous. Because of this it is important to develop techniques for distinguishing between the species and the work to develop genetic markers is ongoing, particularly in Africa where these plants can provide a more easily obtained food resource than imported foods. Of the species which occur in Australia S. americanum, S. scabrum and S. villosum are all considered to be edible.


References: Keller, G.B. (2004). African nightshade, eggplant, spiderflower et al. - production and consumption of traditional vegetables in Tanzania from the farmer's point of view. MSc dissertation, George-August University, Gottingen.; Mwai GJ, Onyango, JC & Abukusta-Onyango, M (2007) Taxonomic identification and characterisation of African nightshades (Solanum L. Section Solanum). AJFAND Online 7(4); Olet EA, Heun M, & Lye KA (2005). African crop or poisonous nightshade; the enigma of poisonous or edible black nightshade solved. African Journal of Ecology 2005; 43: 158-161.

Selected specimens

S.A.: Strathalbyn, 13 Apr. 1961, D.L. Manisty (AD). Qld: Near Mareeba, R.J. Henderson 1573 (BRI).

From the web

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

One of the edible African nightshades - a fact sheet about growing this plant in Africa can be downloaded at

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

Images of the flower and fruit can be seen at

Images of frutis can be seen on the Dave’s Garden site.

The United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) has numerous links for this species.

Limited information and links for this species are available on the Solanaceae Source site, but there is an image of the fruits.