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  1. Family: Solanaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Solanum L.
      1. Solanum scabrum Mill.

        This species is accepted, and its native range is Tropical & S. Africa, W. Indian Ocean.


    Solanaceae, Jennifer M Edmonds. Oliganthes, Melongena & Monodolichopus, Maria S. Vorontsova & Sandra Knapp. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2012

    Type: cultivated in Chelsea Physic Garden, introduced from North America, Miller s.n. (BM!, lecto. designated by Henderson in Contrib. Queensland Herbarium, No. 16: 61 (1974))
    Annual or short-lived perennial herb, erect, to 1 m high, base occasionally woody;
    Stems prominently and dentately winged, often purple especially basally; lateral branches sparse and usually spreading horizontally up to 1.5 m, pilose to glabrescent with scattered eglandular hairs on mature parts
    Leaves often coarse, light to dark green or purple, broadly ovate, sometimes rotund or ovate-lanceolate, 8–12(–25) × 6–9(–20) cm, bases truncate and decurrent onto stem, margins entire to sinuate, never lobed, apices acute to obtuse, occasionally cordate; surfaces sparsely pilose (especially on lower veins and midribs) to glabrescent; petioles 3.2–8.2(–10) cm
    Inflorescences simple or forked (sometimes multiply), umbellate to lax cymes, leafopposed to extra-axillary 5–17(–30+)-flowered; peduncles erect, 1–5 cm long in flower, 1.5–6 cm long in fruit; pedicels erect and 8–13 mm in flower, erect or spreading, sometimes recurved, and 8–17 mm long in fruit; axes sparsely pilose to glabrescent
    Calyx campanulate, 1.5–3(–4.5) mm long, moderately pilose externally; lobes obovate to broadly triangular, 0.9–2 × 1.2–1.6 mm, obtuse, sometimes irregular, enlarging to 2–2.8 × 2–2.5 mm when in fruit
    Corolla white or tinged purple with yellowish-green basal star, stellate, 1.1–1.8 cm diameter, tube to 1.2 mm long; lobes broadly ovate, 5–7 × 2–5.5 mm, pilose externally with ciliate margins, spreading after anthesis. Filaments free for 0.8–1.5 mm, densely villous internally; anthers typically purple to purplish-brown but often orange/yellow in Africa, 2–2.9(–3.3) × 0.8–1 mm
    Ovary brown, 0.8–1.5 × 1.5–1.8 mm, glabrous; style 2–4(–4.5) × 0.2–0.4 m, lower third densely pilose, not usually exserted beyond anthers; stigma capitate, 0.3–0.5 mm diameter
    Berries usually borne on erect pedicels, deeply purple to black, broadly ovoid with tough opaque cuticles, glossy becoming dull, 1–2(–2.4) × 0.8–1.4 cm, smooth, surrounded basally by adherent ovate to triangular calyx lobes which become reflexed, remaining on plant at maturity. Seeds numerous, up to 144 per berry, yellow, brown or purple, obovoid, discoidal, 2–2.3 × 1.5–1.7 mm, reticulate; sclerotic granules absent
    Fig. 17/20, p 126
    Widely cultivated as a leaf vegetable or garden plant, often occurring as an escape and a weed of crops such as beans or maize; 1200–2150 m
    The complex synonymy surrounding the correct use of the epithet guineense specifically for a species possibly belonging to the section Cyphomandropsis is considered by Nee (ined., 1994), while the confusing use of it to describe several variants of S. nigrum is discussed by Heine (Kew Bull. 14: 245 (1960)). Though invariably described as being native to Guinea, the origin of this hexaploid species, which is often known as the Garden Huckleberry and which Linnaeus called S. nigrum var. guineense, is unknown. Heine stated that it does not occur wild in Guinea, where it is cultivated as a potherb and medicinally, and he doubted that it is native to any part of Africa.The species shows its greatest diversity in Nigeria and Cameroon, where it is a popular leafy vegetable - suggesting that it could have originated in the warm humid forests of western Africa. Indeed the work by Focho et al. (2002) on the variability exhibited by Cameroonian populations of this species, together with the many different names for S. scabrum in West African languages are suggestive of a West African origin for this species. These authors considered that it is probably Africa’s most important indigenous leafy vegetable, widely grown in the humid forest zone of West and Central Africa, but also cultivated for its leaves in more than 20 African countries. It is now increasingly cultivated in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania for its fruits and leaves ( cf. Schippers, 2000 & 2004) though Olet et al. (2005) recorded that this species is only cultivated in Kigezi in Uganda. Focho et al. (2002) considered it to be of minor importance in East Africa, where the less bitter S. villosum is a more popular vegetable. Very little herbarium material has been collected from these areas.  Schippers (2000) noted that the variation exhibited by this species has resulted in the recognition of many different cultivars in West Africa – mainly of local importance – and this inherent variation has generated the publication of various infra-specific names by some African workers. The subspecies nigericum Gbile, for example, was based on the lectotype of S. scabrum, and was illegitimate. More recently, Olet (in Novon, 16(4): 510 (2006)) described the subspecies laevis Olet for a variant that she considered to be the wild form of S. scabrum in Uganda. Basing her conclusions on a variety of systematic analyses, (cf. Olet, 2004) she suggested that these plants are those widely identified as S. nigrum (see page 124). Olet further suggested that although this new subspecies was described from Uganda, this area probably represents the eastern edge of its distribution; she considered it to be a West African plant. Among the characters used to differentiate this new taxon from the subspecies scabrum were terete edentate stems, simple inflorescences, geniculate styles and smaller leaves and fruits. Type material cited for this subspecies has not been seen (the paratypes cited by Olet as being at K could not be found), so this subspecies has neither been included nor treated as a synonym in this account. However, Manoko’s (2007) analyses failed to support the recognition of these two subspecies of S. scabrum. The berry cuticles of S. scabrum sensu stricto are extremely tough, and the ripe berries often split open while still in situ leaving a sparsely foliated plant covered with large blackish/purple fruits. The deep anthocynanin pigmentation characterising this species has led to the berries being used as a source of ink in the Congo and Zambia. Three variants are recognised in the Cameroon; the so-called Foumbot type which is grown on a large scale as a monocrop and is characterised by green stems and large dark green leaves; the purpleleaved type Bamenda and and an intermediate-sized leaf type found in Buea. Various regions favour certain types and degrees of bitterness (Focho et al., 2002). Though purplish or brownish anthers characterise this species, African specimens often have yellow/orange anthers. Solanum scabrum is another hexaploid species (2 n=6 x=72) (cf. Edmonds 1977). The complicated arguments concerning the synonomy of Martius’ S. memphiticum (not to be confused with species 17. S. memphiticum Gmel.) are discussed in Edmonds (1979), as is the synonymy of S. tinctorium Welw.
    Flora districts: U2 Range: Found sporadically in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, and Madagascar Range: Extensively cultivated in Nigeria and the Cameroon as well as in the Ghana, Congo, Gabon and the Ivory Coast Range: A casual introduction in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North America (where it is sometimes cultivated)



    Native to:

    Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina, Cameroon, Cape Provinces, Central African Repu, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Free State, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Ivory Coast, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Introduced into:

    Belgium, Chagos Archipelago, China South-Central, China Southeast, Connecticut, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Illinois, Jawa, Maluku, Mauritius, Missouri, New Zealand North, Réunion, South Australia, Sumatera, Sweden, Taiwan, Tibet, Wisconsin


    Other Data

    Solanum scabrum Mill. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    Jan 1, 2005 Schinz [807], Namibia K000196168
    Jan 1, 2002 Barthelat, F. [210], Comoros K000212407
    Jan 1, 1990 Coode, M.J.E. [4582], Comoros K000212408
    Jun 27, 1905 Lester, R.N. [45], Nigeria K000658436
    Jun 27, 1905 Westphal-Stevels, J.M.C. [1989], Cameroon K000658435
    Jun 27, 1905 Hall, ? [47139], Ghana K000658434
    Deighton, F.C. [1811] K001169956
    Deighton, F.C. [4571], Sierra Leone K001155777
    Jordan, H.D. [1059], Sierra Leone K001155780
    Forrest, G. [7289], China K001152411
    Forrest, G. [4479], China K001152415
    Forrest, G. [8373], China K001152433
    Wilson, E.H. [2660], China K001152414
    Trapnell, C.G. [1453], Zambia K001158739
    Symon, D.E. [35881], Australia K001153969
    Symon, D.E. [35883], Australia K001153970
    Symon, D.E. [35883], Australia K001153971
    Henry [1024], China K001152428
    Welwitsch [6103], Angola K001029777
    Welwitsch [6034], Angola K001029778
    Henry, A. [9870], China K001152429
    Nee, M. [14623-b], USA K001169965
    Nee, M. [18248], USA K001169966
    Nee, M. [16088], USA K001169967
    Nee, M. [16063], USA K001169968
    Faber, E. [s.n.], China K001152427
    Thomas, N.W. [3703], Sierra Leone K001155778
    Hu [972], China K001152412
    Thompson, S.A. [1753], Cameroon K001169964
    Schoch, O. [67], China K001152416
    Chow, K.S. [80300], China K001152425
    Westphal, E. [8899], Cameroon K001169962
    Furtado, C.X. [25897], Singapore K001153278
    Beach, K.H. [46], China K001152417
    Bullock, T.L. [323] K001152431
    Merrill, E.D. [1571], China K001152430
    s.coll [s.n.] K001152187
    s.coll [130], China K001152424
    s.coll [1807] K001167950
    s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K001169955
    s.coll [s.n.] K001169957
    s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K001169963
    Yao, K. [8611], China K001152426
    McKay, J. [s.n.], USA K001169969
    McKay, J. [s.n.], USA K001169970
    Herb Gay, J. [s.n.], Luxembourg K001169958
    Herb Gay, J. [s.n.] K001169959
    Chung, H.-.H. [1647], China K001152413
    Tsang, W.-.T. [20890], China K001152432
    La Touche, J. de [152], China K001152410
    Rao, M.K. [65], India K001169961
    Hanson, C.G. [s.n.], United Kingdom K001169960
    Hanson, C.G. [s.n.], United Kingdom K001151623
    s.coll [40] Solanum melanocerasum K001152206
    s.coll [40] Solanum melanocerasum K001152207
    s.coll [s.n.] Solanum melanocerasum K001152209
    Devis, H.F. [s.n.], United Kingdom Solanum melanocerasum K001152204
    Devis, H.F. [s.n.] Solanum melanocerasum K001152205
    Thedenius, C.G.H. [s.n.] Solanum melanocerasum K001152208
    Blake, A. [s.n.], United Kingdom Solanum nigrum var. guineense K001151365
    s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom Solanum nigrum var. guineense K001151364
    s.coll [s.n.], Ireland Solanum nigrum var. guineense K001151366


    First published in Gard. Dict. ed. 8: n.° 6 (1768)

    Accepted by

    • Särkinen, T. & al. (2018). A revision of the Old World black nightshades (Morelloid clade of Solanum L., Solanaceae) PhytoKeys 106: 1-223.
    • PBI Solanum Project (2014-continuously updated). Solanaceae Source: a global taxonomic resource for the nightshade family


    Kew Backbone Distributions

    • (2019). epublication.
    • Särkinen, T. & al. (2018). A revision of the Old World black nightshades (Morelloid clade of Solanum L., Solanaceae) PhytoKeys 106: 1-223.

    Flora of Tropical East Africa

    • Manoko, Syst. Study African Solanum sect. Solanum: chapters 1, 5–8 (2007).
    • Fl. Eth. 5: 117 (2006);
    • Novon 16(4): 508 (2006);
    • F.Z. 8(4): 71 (2005);
    • Légum. Afr. Indig.: 379 (2004);
    • Uganda: papers i-vi (2004);
    • Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter 131: 42 (2002);
    • Mansfeld, Encycl. Ag. & Hort. Crops 4: 1809 (2001);
    • Afr. Indig. Veget.: 188 (2000)
    • Edmonds & Chweya, Black Nightshades: 38 (1997);
    • Bothalia 25(1): 47 (1995);
    • D’Arcy & Rakotozafy, Fl. Madag.: 124 (1994);
    • Bothalia 18(1): 82 (1988);
    • Fitoterapia 56: 11  (1985);
    • Jaeger, Syst. studies Solanum in Africa: 298 (1985, ined.)
    • Journ. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 53 (1981)
    • J.L.S. 78: 224 (1979)
    • Contrib. Queensland Herbarium 16: 61 (1974)
    • E.P.A.: 876 (1963)
    • Gard. Dict. ed. 8: Solanum No. 6 (1768)


    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa

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    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2020. Published on the Internet at and
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
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    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.