Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Solanum nigrum L.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
Click/tap on images to enlarge
Flowers. © Barry Jago
Habit, leaves, flowers and immature fruit. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Linnaeus, C. von (1753) Species Plantarum 2: 186. Type: Central Asia, Herb. Linnaeus no. 248.18; lecto: LINN. Fide R. J. F. Henderson, Contr. Queensland Herb 16: 25 (1974).

Common name

Nightshade, Blackberry; Black Nightshade; Blackberry Nightshade; Nightshade; Nightshade, Black


Usually flowers and fruits as a herb but also flowers as a shrub.


Leaf blades ovate, about 3-13 x 1.5-7 cm, petioles about 1-7 cm long.


Inflorescence leaf-opposed, short, 4-12-flowered, pedicels about 7 mm long. Calyx about 1.5-2.2 mm long, lobes triangular, about 0.3-1.2 mm long. Corolla about 8-12 mm diam. Anthers about 2 mm long.


Fruits globular, about 6-11 mm diam., calyx persistent at the base. Seeds numerous, flattened, about 1.0 x 0.7 mm. Embryo U-shaped.


Cotyledons ovate or broadly lanceolate, about 5-6 x 3-4 mm, apex apiculate, base cuneate to attenuate, petiole about 5 mm long. First pair of leaves ovate, sparsely hairy on the underside, petioles long and slender. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade ovate or broadly lanceolate, apex acute to attenuate, base cuneate, margins usually indistinctly lobed. Petiole long and slender. Seed germination time 12 to 13 days.

Distribution and Ecology

A cosmopolitan weed, now naturalised in WA, NT, NEQ, CEQ and widespread in all Australian states. Altitudinal range from 150-1500 m. Usually grows as a weed on agricultural land but also found along roads and in disturbed areas in rain forest.

Natural History & Notes

Several species have been included under this name, and, because of this, it is difficult to draw conclusions about toxicity. Most cases of suspected poisoning have been due to ingestion of leaves and unripe fruit. (Everist 1974).

Ripe fruits are sometimes eaten by adventurous people but in view of the confusion prevailing in the taxonomy and nomenclature it would be wise to be cautious with this species.

This species may have medicinal properties.

This species has been used medicinally in many parts of the world. It has a reputation as a poison plant; leaves and green fruits contain steroid drugs and can be used as a source of solasodine. Cribb (1981).

Solanum nigrum L. subsp. nigrum, Synopsis Plantarum 1: 224(1805). Solanum nigrum subsp. schultesii (Opiz) Wessely, Feddes Repertorium 63 : 311(1960). Solanum opacum A.Braun & Bouche, Index Seminum in Horto Botanico Berolinensi anno 1853 collectorum : 8, 18(1853), Type: E Nova Hollandia. Semina communicavit Listemann.
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