- "Horsenettle" and variants redirect here. If used for a particular species, this name usually applies to the Carolina Horsenettle (S. carolinense).
Solanum, the nightshades, horsenettles and relatives, are a large and diverse genus of annual and perennial plants. They grow as forbs, vines, subshrubs, shrubs, and small trees, and often have attractive fruit and flowers. Many formerly independent genera like Lycopersicon (the tomatoes) or Cyphomandra are included in Solanum as subgenera or sections today. Thus, the genus nowadays contains roughly 1,500-2,000 species. The species usually most commonly called nightshade in North America and England is Solanum dulcamara, also called bittersweet and woody nightshade. Its foliage and egg-shaped red berries are poisonous, the active principle being solanine, which can cause convulsions and death if taken in large doses. The black nightshade (S. nigrum) is also generally considered poisonous, but its fully ripened fruit and foliage are cooked and eaten in some areas.
The generic name was first used by Pliny the Elder (23-79) for a plant also known as strychnos, most likely S. nigrum. Its derivation is uncertain, possibly stemming from the Latin word sol, meaning "sun," referring to its status as a plant of the sun. Another possibility is that the root was solare, meaning "to soothe," or solamen, meaning "a comfort," which would refer to the soothing effects of the plant upon ingestion.
Most parts of the plants, especially the green parts and unripe fruit, are poisonous to humans (although not necessarily to other animals), but many species in the genus bear some edible parts, such as fruits, leaves, or tubers. Several species are cultivated, including three globally important food crops:
Other species are significant food crops regionally, such as Ethiopian Eggplant and gilo (S. aethiopicum), naranjilla or lulo (S. quitoense), Turkey Berry (S. torvum), pepino (S. muricatum), or the "bush tomatoes" (several Australian species).
While most medical relevance of Solanum is due to poisonings which are not uncommon and may be fatal, several species are locally used in folk medicine, particularly by native peoples who have long employed them. Giant Devil's-fig (S. chrysotrichum) has been shown to be an effective treatment for seborrhoeic dermatitis in a scientific study.
The following list is a provisional lineup of the genus' traditional subdivisions, together with some notable species. Many of the subgenera and sections might not be valid; they are used here provisionally as the phylogeny of this genus is not fully resolved yet and many species have not been reevaluated.
Cladistic analyses of DNA sequence data suggests that the present subdivisions and rankings are largely invalid. Far more subgenera would seem to warrant recognition, with Leptostemonum being the only one that can at present be clearly subdivided into sections. Notably, it includes as a major lineage several members of the traditional sections Cyphomandropsis and the old genus Cyphomandra.
Subgenus Solanum sensu stricto
Other notable species
Formerly placed here
Some plants of yet other genera also were placed in Solanum in former times:
- Chamaesaracha coronopus (as S. coronopus)
- Lycianthes biflora (as S. multifidum Buch.-Ham. ex D.Don)
- Lycianthes denticulata (as S. gouakai var. angustifolium and var. latifolium)
- Lycianthes lycioides (as S. lycioides var. angustifolium)
- Lycianthes mociniana (as S. uniflorum Dunal in Poir. and S. uniflorum Sessé & Moc.)
- Lycianthes rantonnetii (as S. rantonnetii, S. urbanum var. ovatifolium and var. typicum)
- Undetermined species of Lycianthes have been referred to under names such as S. chrysophyllum, S. ciliatum Blume ex Miq., S. corniculatum Hiern, S. lanuginosum, S. loxense, S. mucronatum, S. retrofractum var. acuminatum, S. violaceum Blume, S. violifolium f. typicum, S. virgatum notst β albiflorum, S. uniflorum Lag. or S. uniflorum var. berterianum.
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- "Solanum L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2009-09-01. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?11264. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
- Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. 4 R-Z. Taylor and Francis US. p. 2058. ISBN 978-0-8493-2678-3. http://books.google.com/?id=2ndDtX-RjYkC.
- Herrera-Arellano, A.; Jiménez-Ferrer, E.; Vega-Pimentel, A.M.; Martínez-Rivera, Mde.L.; Hernández-Hernández, M.; Zamilpa, A. & Tortoriello, J. (2004). "Clinical and mycological evaluation of therapeutic effectiveness of Solanum chrysotrichum standardized extract on patients with Pityriasis capitis (dandruff). A double blind and randomized clinical trial controlled with ketoconazole". Planta Medica 70 (6): 483–488. doi:10.1055/s-2004-827145. PMID 15241887.
- "Solanum Phylogeny". Solanaceae Source. Natural History Museum. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/projects/solanaceaesource/taxonomy/phylogeny/index.jsp. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- Agricultural Research Service (13 April 2006). "Genus: Solanum L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/genus.pl?11264. Retrieved 2009-11-01.
- Tepe, Eric J.; Ridley, Glynis; Bohs, Lynn. "A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany". PhytoKeys. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3254248/. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
- Ochoa, C. M. (2006). Solanum tergosericeum (Solanaceae sect. Basarthrum): A new species from Peru. Phytologia 88:2 212-15.