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Taxonomy

Most members of the family occur in the tropics, but a small group of seven genera known as ‘hyoscyaminous plants’ is distributed in Eurasia with the centre of diversity in the Hengduan Mountains in south-west China.Scopolia belongs to this unusual solanaceous tribe, together with Anisodus, Atropanthe, Hyoscyamus, Archihyoscyamus, Physochlaina and Przewalskia. These genera form a well defined phylogenetic group united by such characters as:
  • curved embryo, usually more than a semicircle
  • two-chambered ovary with numerous ovules
  • calyx enlarged after flowering and enclosing the fruit
  • capsule with circumscissile dehiscence, opening along its circumference
  • presence of tropane alkaloid compounds
Although great importance is attributed to the presence of a circumscissile capsule in the hyoscyaminous tribe, some researchers believe that two genera with berries as fruits - Atropa and Mandragora - should also be included in the group.Since the original publication of Scopolia in 1764, more than ten species have been described within the genus. But most of them have since been confirmed as S. carniolica, or transferred to Anisodus and Atropanthe.Today the genus Scopolia comprises just two species:Apart from the geographical difference, S japonica is distinguished from S. carniolica by:
  • a curved style
  • calyx teeth of unequal length
  • less obovate leaves with much longer petioles

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