Solanum aethiopicum L.

First published in Cent. Pl. II: 10 (1756)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is a cultigen from NE. Tropical Africa. It is a subshrub or shrub and grows primarily in the seasonally dry tropical biome.


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

Type: Ethiopia, J. Burser vol. 9 no. 17 (UPS, lecto. designated by Hepper & Jaeger in K.B. 40: 391, 1985)
Morphology General Habit
Annual or perennial herb or shrub, 0.3–1 m, erect, unarmed;
Morphology Stem
young stems glabrous to ± stellate-pubescent with trichomes porrect, translucent or orangetranslucent, sessile or shortly stalked, stalks up to 0.1 mm, rays ± 8(–12), 0.15–0.3 mm, midpoints shorter than rays
Morphology Leaves
Leaf blades drying concolorous to discolorous, yellowgreen to dark red-brown or almost black, 2–3 times longer than wide, ovate (elliptic), 5–18 × 2.5–10 cm, base cuneate to rounded, often unequal or oblique, margin subentire to weakly lobed, the lobes up to 3 on each side, up to 1.5 cm long, broadly rounded (acute) and extending up to 1/4 of the distance to the midvein, apex acute; glabrous to stellate-pubescent; trichomes on abaxial surface porrect, sessile or shortly stalked, stalks to 0.1 mm, rays ± 8(–12), 0.2–0.35 mm, midpoints shorter than rays, adaxially with thick stalks and reduced rays and midpoints, often with minute simple hairs; primary veins 3–6 pairs; petiole 1–4 cm, 1/4–1/3 of the leaf length
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences not branched, with 1–2(10) flowers, 1–1.8 cm long; peduncle 0–0.5 mm long; rachis 0–1 cm long; pedicels 0.5–2 cm long in flower, in fruit 0.7–2.5 cm long. Flowers perfect, 5–10-merous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 3.5–9 mm long, lobes broadly deltate, 1.5–5 mm long, acute
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla white, 0.8–1.8 cm in diameter, lobed for ± 2/3 of its length, lobes deltate, 2.5–8 × 1.5–4.5 mm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens equal; anthers 2.3–4(–6) mm
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary glabrous or stellate-pubescent in the upper 1/5; style 4.5–9 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Berries 1–4 per infructescence, evenly green or striped when young, orange at maturity, spherical or variously shaped, (10–)15–25(–50) mm in diameter
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 2.1–3.5 × 2–2.5 mm
Cultivated in woodland and wooded grassland zones; does not naturalise
Solanum aethiopicum is a widespread cultivated vegetable crop, and includes all cultivated forms of S. anguivi. Solanum aethiopicum can be identified and distinguished from S. anguivi by a combination of the following characters: annual herbaceous habit, frequent lack of stellate indumentum, smaller and more entire leaves, 1–2(–10) flowers per inflorescence, short and thick pedicels of fruit crop varieties, more than 5 perianth lobes, ovary enlarged even at anthesis, fruit over 1 cm in diameter and with more than two locules, not detaching easily from the pedicels, immature fruit striped and/or not green when immature, and seeds over 2.5 mm long. Leaf vegetable varieties are easily recognizable by their thin membranous leaves and dark red-brown, almost black drying colour; these have up to 10 small flowers. Precise limits of this species are difficult to specify due to the wide variety of infrequently occurring characters. Prickly forms of S. aethiopicum have been recorded from European botanical gardens (Lester & Niakan, In: Solanaceae: Biology and Systematics, pp. 433–456. 1986), but are not known in Africa. Solanum aethiopicum, S. gilo, S. olivare, and S. integrifolium are all interfertile cultivated races of S. anguivi. The cultivars have been separated into four groups: Gilo group (with stellate hairs and large fleshy variably shaped fruits that taste like carrots or green beans, common in Brazil), Shum group (leaf vegetable with no stellate hairs or prickles, small fruits ± 2 cm in diameter, common in Africa), Kumba group (edible leaves that are almost glabrous as well as sweet broad deeply-grooved fruits), and Aculeatum Group (with prickles, broad and deeply furrowed fruit, common in European botanical gardens but not known in Africa). Solanum anguivi was maintained as a distinct wild to semicultivated species due to its largely distinct morphology, lack of wild intermediates, and a probable selective pressure against new hybrids between S. aethiopicum and S. anguivi. Synonyms listed here are only those in common use or based on African types. Complete synonymy for S. aethiopicum can be found on the Solanaceae Source website (
Flora districts: U1 U2 U3 U4 K1 K2 K3 K4 K5 K6 K7 T1 T2 T3 T4 T5 T6 T7 T8 Range: Madagascar, and throughout South America and in some parts of Europe and Asia Range: Widely distributed in cultivation: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Kinshasa, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, Zambia, Malawi,

Solanaceae, H. heine. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

Morphology General Habit
A glabrous herb up to 2 ft. high
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
White or pale violet flowers up to 2/3 in. diam.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Globose, red shining fruits up to 3/4 in. diam.


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