Electronic Flora of South Australia
Electronic Flora of South Australia
Census of SA Plants, Algae & Fungi
Identification tools

Alkaloids and Solanaceae

Tropane alkaloids are a group of secondary metabolites with hallucinogenic properties. Some, such as atropine and scopolamine, are used in medicine. Tropane alkaloids are abundant in Solanaceae and for a quick review of what many of the Australian species contain see Griffin & Lin (2000), De Simone et al. (2008) or Eich (2008).

These properties were early recognised by Dr Joseph Bancroft for Duboisia in particular and an unpublished manuscript by Paul Foley, Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Randwick, documenting the early history of Duboisia use in medicine, particularly D. myoporoides, can be found in the Historical Records of Australian Science

De Simone, R., Margarucci, L. & V. De Feo. (2008). Tropane alkaloids: an overview. Pharmacologyonline 1: 70-89.

Eich, E. (2008). Solanaceae and Convolvulaceae: Secondary Metabolites: Biosynthesis, Chemotaxonomy, Biological and Economic Significance (A Handbook). (Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg).

Griffin, W.J. & G.D. Lin (2000). Chemotaxonomy and geographical distribution of tropane alkaloids. Phytochemistry 53: 627–628.

Further information about the toxic nature of some of the plants treated here can be accessed through the FDA Poisonous Plant Database of the U.S. Government while the Important Poisonous Vascular Plants of Australia page of the Merck Veterinary Manual may give some general information  with respect to veterinary matters for some of the genera treated here.

Economic species in Solanaceae

A brief account of the many useful species in the genus Solanum can be found on the Solanaceae Source pages maintained by the Natural History Museum in London.

Other useful background information can be found on the Wikipedia pages for other Solanaceous species of economic importance such as Tomato, Capsicum, Eggplant, Potato, Physalis and Nicotiana for which of course there are huge literature and web resources.

Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal supplies a considerable amount of information on many Solanaceous species and while some of it is dated it can still be of considerable historical interest. 

While there are numerous garden sites which deal with Solanaceae species used in horticulture the plant and garden wiki encyclopedia  Gardenology might be worth checking. 

See also further links and references given within the treatments of the individual species.


There is an enormous amount of information available on the web and in books regarding the use of Nicotiana and Duboisia by aboriginal people in Australia. For an historical overview however see the Symon article below. Likewise there is increasing information concerning the cultivation of the Desert Raisin or Bush tomato (Solanum centrale) and reference is given below to a recent report which can be downloaded. In using the web for browsing information about edibility and uses of plants, particularly Solanaceous species, care does need to be taken that the correct identification has been made since many similar looking plants vary in their toxicity and edibility.

Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory of Australia; collated and researched by Andy Barr et al. (1988). Traditional bush medicines: an Aboriginal pharmacopoeia. (Greenhouse Publications: Richmond, Victoria).

Alyawarr speakers from Ampilatwatja, Fiona Walsh & Josie Douglas (2009). Angka Akatyerr-akert: A Desert Raisin report. Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, Alice Springs. Downloadable from http://www.desertknowledgecrc.com.au

Latz, P.K.(1995). Bushfires & Bushtucker: Aboriginal plant use in central Australia. (IAD Press: Alice Springs).

Peterson, N. (1979). Aboriginal uses of Australian Solanaceae. In Hawkes et al. (eds). The Biology and Taxonomy of the Solanaceae. pp. 171-89. (Academic Press for Linnean Society of London: London).

Symon, D.E. (2005). Native tobaccos (Solanaceae; Nicotiana spp.) in Australia and their use by aboriginal people. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 21: 1-10.  

Disclaimer Copyright Disclaimer Copyright Email Contact:
State Herbarium of South Australia
Government of South Australia Government of South Australia Government of South Australia Department for Environment and Water