Solanum giganteum Jacq.

First published in Collectanea 4: 125 (1791)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Tropical & S. Africa. It is a shrub or tree and grows primarily in the seasonally dry tropical biome.

Descriptions

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

Type
Type: cultivated in Hortus Vienna, originally from South Africa (? Cape of Good Hope fide Bot. Mag. (1817)), fide Cufodontis (1963); Hort. Schonbr., Herb. Jacquin s.n. (W, syn., photos !) fide Lester (unpublished 2005); t. 328 in Jacquin, Icones plantarum rariorum, 2: (1790) fide Friis (2006)
Morphology General
Shrub to 4 m high, sometimes straggling, occasionally tree to 8 m tall (trunk reported “as thick as an arm” by Wright, 1904); much branched, branches ascending; with dense white floccose indumentum of sessile stellate hairs with ± 12 equal eglandular rays 0.1–0.3 mm long together with small simple hairs and stalked glands, glabrescent exposing brown bark; main stems and branches with stout conical, straight or recurved prickles up to 5.5 × 5.5 mm basally tapering to ± 0.2 mm apically, laterally compressed, tomentose/floccose basally, glabrescent and finally yellowishbrown, often leaving scars on stems and branches
Morphology Leaves
Leaves alternate, coriaceous, dark green above, white to yellowish-white below, ovate, obovate or elliptic, sometimes narrowly lanceolate, (7.5–)12–36 × (4–)5–13 cm, bases cuneate often decurrent for half of petiole, margins usually entire, occasionally repand, apices usually acute sometimes acuminate; lower surfaces covered with dense floccose pubescence of stellate hairs as on stems, rarely with a few small prickles on lower part of midrib, upper surfaces glabrous but for the often densely floccose midribs where stalked glands sometimes also visible; petioles 1.5–6 cm long, sometimes with 1–2 leaf-like elliptic to ovate pseudostipules basally, sometimes with small prickles
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences subterminal becoming lateral, forked (usually multiply so), 100–200-flowered, lax, scorpioid cymes borne in compact pyramidal corymbs 7–14 cm wide; flowers usually nodding; peduncles 1.2–6 cm long in flower, 3.5–5 cm long and woody in fruit, often with small curved prickles; pedicels erect to recurved and 0.8–1.5 × 1.1–2.1 cm in flower, erect in fruit and spreading, often becoming woody and thickened beneath calyx; axes all densely floccose with stellate hairs as above
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx usually cupulate, sometimes campanulate, (3–)4–6 mm long, densely floccose externally, glabrescent internally where prominent venation often visible, lobes often unequal, triangular, 1–2.5(–3) × 1–2.5(–3) mm, acute, occasionally apiculate; adherent basally in fruit, later becoming reflexed, (2.5–)3–6(–6.5) × 1.5–4 mm, glabrescent
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla violet, purple, pale lilac to whitish, sometimes with yellow or greenish central star, stellate, 1.2–1.8(–2) cm diameter; tube 1–1.6 mm long, glabrous externally; lobes lanceolate, (3–)4.5–8 × 1.3–3 mm, densely stellate-floccose externally, sparsely stellate-pubescent or glabrescent on median veins internally; lobes reflexed and splayed between the calyx lobes after anthesis
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens equal; filaments free for 0.3–0.8 mm, glabrous; anthers with small apical pores, yellow to brownish, 2.3–3.5 × 0.8–1.1 mm, connivent. Ovary brownish, 0.8–1.7 × 0.8–1.6 mm, glabrous, bilocular; style straight sometimes curved apically, pale green, 4.5–7 × 0.3–0.4 mm, glabrous, exserted up to 3 mm; stigma pale green, capitate, 0.3–0.4(–0.7) mm diameter
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Berries smooth, red or orange, rarely yellow, globose to ovoid, glabrous, glossy, (5–)6–9(–10) mm diameter
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds 23–37 per berry, yellow to yellow-orange, obovoid, elliptic or reniform, 2.3–2.8(–3.2) × 1.5–2.5 mm, foveolate to reticulate; sclerotic granules absent.
Ecology
Grassland, secondary bushland, thickets, moist and riverine forest and -margins, bushland, shambas, evergreen thickets, bamboo zone; 800–2450 m
Note
This species is commonly known as the Giant Nightshade, Red Bitter Apple or Red Bitter Berry, and as African Holly in Australia. It is often cultivated as an ornamental shrub or small tree in both the northern and southern hemispheres, or as a bedding or hedge plant (Welman 2008). It is characterised by a dense snowy white floccose indumentum on the lower leaf surfaces which strikingly contrasts with the glabrescent leathery upper surfaces, though Ugandan specimens do not seem to be so densely floccose. While scattered stellate hairs can often be seen on the mature berries, they are loose and will have become dislodged from the floccose floral and vegetative parts; the ovaries are always glabrous. Lawrence (1960) noted that the species was sparingly cultivated in southern California for its showy red berries in the 1930’s. It is used as a shade tree in Kerala, India, with the fruits and leaves being used in traditional African medicine to treat sores (cf. Mansfeld, 2001). Medicinal reports include the use of its leaves to dress ulcers in southern and eastern Africa with the woolly undersurfaces being used to clean the lesions and the upper smooth surfaces to heal the wounds, together with the leaves and fruits for ulcer treatment and the leaves for insomnia in Uganda (cf. Welman, 2008). Plants of S. giganteum with a strong unpleasant smell have been reported from K 4, whilst berries have been reported as sweetly aromatic in T 1. The berries are eaten by larger birds such as bulbuls, doves and go-away-birds particularly in late winter when food is in short supply in southern Africa, where the species has also been listed as an occasional ruderal or silvicultural weed (cf. Welman 2008). The species may be of use as a source of raw materials for the steroid industry; various alkaloids have been isolated from the leaves including solasodine in both the fruits and leaves (see Welman 2008). Bitter (1921) placed this species together with S. sordidescens, S. muansense, S. schumannianum and S. ulugurense into a new series Giganteiformia Bitter. These species were all characterised by prickly stems, a dense stellate farinose/tomentose pubescence, large leaves, multiflowered forked corymbose inflorescences and smallish flowers. They are all considered to be synonyms of S. giganteum here. Dunal (page 258 (1852)) recognised two varieties of S. giganteum namely var. tenuifolium Dunal and var. longifolium Dunal – both from India and both probably synonymous with this species. Jaeger (1985) considered S. muansense and S. sordidescens to be part of the “ S. kagehense Dammer group”. However, he recognised this group for convenience due to the uncertainty of which species a number of specimens belonged to, the definitive taxonomy of which pended examination of their types. Lester (ined.) determined many Kew specimens of S. giganteum from across Africa variously as S. seretii, S. sordidescens, ”S. bequaertii ( = S. sordidescens)” and S. muansense in 1998 . Apart from less dense pubescence on the under sufaces of the leaves of some of these specimens there is little to indicate the basis on which he differentiated them from S. giganteum sensu stricto. The sepal size and shape seems to be particularly variable in this taxon; the calyces are usually cupulate with broadly triangular calyx lobes. On some specimens (e.g. Juniper et al. 1937 from T 4) the calyces are more campanulate with narrowly triangular calyx lobes twice as long. This may have been among the factors on which Lester based his conclusions. However, both calyx and sepal size can also very considerably on same plant in this species with sepal size sometimes also varying in the same flower; these variables do not seem to be correlated with any other distinguishng features. The species occurs in a variety of habitats throughout Africa; Bukenya & Carasco (1995) reported it to be fairly common in Uganda with a disjunct montane distribution southwards from Ethiopia to South Africa and west to Cameroon. Blundell (1992) reported that it is an uncommon plant in wet montane forests at higher altitudes in Kenya and in lake areas in both Kenya and Tanzania and all Ugandan regions with the exception of northern parts. The protologues of both S. niveum Vahl and S. farinosum Wall. (see below) are quite informative, and include the most important distinguishing characters of S. giganteum with which they have been synonymised. Moreover S. niveum was treated as a synonym of this species by many earlier authors and a Drège (s.n., K!) specimen typical of S. giganteum was annotated by N.E. Brown in 1883 who stated that ”this sheet matches Thunberg’s type specimen” and that ”Thunberg collected it in the woods at Essenbosch in Lange Kloop, Humansdorp Div. W Cape”. There are two Heyne specimens which might be duplicates of the same collection. One in K-WALL (No. 2160) is without a date, though the catalogue number date is 1831, and has two labels – one says “S. argenteum Babobad” and the other – which is the original Wallich labelsays ”S. farinosum Wall. ex Herb. Heyne”. The specimen in the general Kew Herbarium was collected by Heyne and is labelled Babobad September 1816. This is the holotype of S. farinosum. Both specimens clearly belong to S. giganteum; S. argenteum Heyne ex Wall. is a nomen nudum. The type material of S. seretii, together with de Wildeman’s informative protologue and excellent plate leave little doubt that this species is synonymous with S. giganteum. Bitter (1921, 1923) actually thought that it was similar to and probably a variety of the latter species. Bitter differentiated S. sordidescens and S. muansense from S. giganteum largely on the basis of their leaf sizes and shapes, pubescence colour, prickle coarseness and berry sizes, all of which are within parameters of morphological variability exhibited by S. giganteum. These two species have therefore been synonymised with the latter from the morphological characteristics given in their extensive protologues and from the isotypes of S. sordidescens (see below). The type material of S. bequaertii indicates that this species is either very close to S. giganteum or a synonym of it. Bitter’s protologue of S. bequaertii cited anthers 4.5 mm long, linear corolla lobes 6–7 mm long, and large (12 mm) red berries (becoming black). These features are all smaller on the two Bequaert specimens examined with the anthers 3.5–4 mm, the lobes narrowly triangular and ± 5.5 mm long, and the berries only 5–6 mm diameter – all measurements within the variability acceptable in S. giganteum. The only obvious disparity concerns the lower leaf surfaces being mealy rather than floccose, and the occurrence of small prickles on the upper midribs. However, many of the leaf petioles are associated with the pseudostipules characteristic of S. giganteum. Bitter (1914) suggested that S. bequaertii was related to S. torvum Sw. and final clarification of its taxonomic placement requires further work on related species.
Distribution
Flora districts: U2 U3 U 4 ; K1 K3 K4 K5 K7 T1 T2 T3 T4 T6 T7 T8 Range: India and Sri Lanka, Australia and S America Range: Probably native to the Cape region of South Africa, but now found from Nigeria to Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa
[FTEA]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/146459232/146459234

Conservation
LC - least concern
[IUCN]

Flora Zambesiaca. Vol. 8, Part 4. Solanaceae. Gonçalves AE. 2005

Type
Type cultivated in Hortus Vindobonensis (Vienna, Austria), originally from South Africa (Cape Prov.), fide Cufodontis in loc. cit. (1963).
Morphology General
Short-lived, softly woody under shrub, shrub or sometimes a small tree, up to 5(8) m high; sympodia plurifoliate; hairs stellate, white (ageing greyish or yellowish in herbaria), very fine (c  0.1–0.2 mm across), floccose, ± sessile, regular, with many short rays; prickles 1–5 mm long, straight or slightly curved, laterally ± compressed, often hairy from the base to above the middle
Morphology Branches
Branches whitish tomentose, with scattered prickles, sometimes quite unarmed on late growth, sometimes ± glabrescent Branches whitish tomentose, with scattered prickles, sometimes quite unarmed on late growth, sometimes ± glabrescent.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves mostly rather closely set at ends of branches, rarely drought deciduous; petiole 1–8.5 cm long, sometimes bearing 1–2 leaf-like, elliptic, ovate or obovate pseudostipules 1–3.5(5) × 0.5–1. 8 cm at the base; lamina membranous, 5–30(37.5) × (1. 5)2–11(15) cm, elliptic to broadly ovate or lanceolate, sometimes obovate or oblanceolate, base cuneate to sub-rounded, narrowing to the petiole and subequal- to unequal-sided, apex usually ± acuminate, entire or slightly repand-sinuate, markedly discolorous, at first nearly snow-white tomentose on both surfaces, soon glabrescent and dark shiny above, persistently tomentellous and rarely with 1–2 short prickles beneath, with (7)9–12(14) pairs of lateral nerves Leaves mostly rather closely set at ends of branches, rarely drought deciduous; petiole 1–8.5 cm long, sometimes bearing 1–2 leaf-like, elliptic, ovate or obovate pseudostipules 1–3.5(5) × 0.5–1.8 cm at the base; lamina membranous, 5–30(37.5) × (1.5)2–11(15) cm, elliptic to broadly ovate or lanceolate, sometimes obovate or oblanceolate, base cuneate to sub-rounded, narrowing to the petiole and subequal- to unequal-sided, apex usually ± acuminate, entire or slightly repand-sinuate, markedly discolorous, at first nearly snow-white tomentose on both surfaces, soon glabrescent and dark shiny above, persistently tomentellous and rarely with 1–2 short prickles beneath, with (7)9–12(14) pairs of lateral nerves.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Cymes towards the ends of the branches, becoming lateral, 4.5–10 cm long, corymbiform to ± paniculiform, dense, many-flowered, densely whitish tomentose, sometimes ± glabrescent in fruit; peduncle 1. 5–4(5.5) cm long, sometimes ± armed Cymes towards the ends of the branches, becoming lateral, 4.5–10 cm long, corymbiform to ± paniculiform, dense, many-flowered, densely whitish tomentose, sometimes ± glabrescent in fruit; peduncle 1.5–4(5.5) cm long, sometimes ± armed.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers faintly scented, (4)5(6)-merous, ± nodding. Flowers faintly scented, (4)5(6)-merous, ± nodding; pedicels 0.5–2 cm long, slender, in fruit elongated to 2.5 cm, ± thickened, erect.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Pedicel
Pedicels 0.5–2 cm long, slender, in fruit elongated to 2.5 cm, ± thickened, erect
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 4–6 mm long, campanulate or cyathiform, in fruit saucer-shaped, tomentose, unarmed, somewhat accrescent; lobes 1–4 × 1–2 mm, lanceolate-triangular to deltate or ovate-triangular, occasionally ovate-cuneate, obtuse or acute, sometimes ± acuminate Calyx 4–6 mm long, campanulate or cyathiform, in fruit saucer-shaped, tomentose, unarmed, somewhat accrescent; lobes 1–4 × 1–2 mm, lanceolate-triangular to deltate or ovate-triangular, occasionally ovate-cuneate, obtuse or acute, sometimes ± acuminate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pale blue to lilac or violet-purple, rarely white, the midvein of each lobe green, stelliform; limb (8)12–15(18) mm across; lobes (3)5–7(8) × (1. 3)2–3(3.5) mm, lanceolate to oblong, acute to acuminate, tomentose outside, with a few stellate hairs on the midvein and near the apex inside, widely spreading to reflexed Corolla pale blue to lilac or violet-purple, rarely white, the midvein of each lobe green, stelliform; limb (8)12–15(18) mm across; lobes (3)5–7(8) × (1.3)2–3(3.5) mm, lanceolate to oblong, acute to acuminate, tomentose outside, with a few stellate hairs on the midvein and near the apex inside, widely spreading to reflexed.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamen filaments 0.2–0.6(1) mm long; anthers 2–4 mm long, linear or lanceolate-elliptic in outline, not very incurved Stamen filaments 0.2–0.6(1) mm long; anthers 2–4 mm long, linear or lanceolate-elliptic in outline, not very incurved.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary c.  1 mm in diameter, ± globose, glabrous except for few, minute, sub-apical glands.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style 5–7(8) mm long, exceeding the stamens, straight or slightly curved at the apex, glabrous or with a few minute glands from the base to above the middle
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruits often numerous, shiny red when ripe, finally deep red, (5)6–8(10) mm in diameter, ± globose, appearing edible Fruits often numerous, shiny red when ripe, finally deep red, (5)6–8(10) mm in diameter, ± globose, appearing edible.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds numerous, straw-coloured to ± whitish, 2.5–3.8 × 2–3 mm, compressed, obliquely reniform, obovate, elliptic or suborbicular in outline, shallowly reticulate Seeds numerous, straw-coloured to ± whitish, 2.5–3.8 × 2–3 mm, compressed, obliquely reniform, obovate, elliptic or suborbicular in outline, shallowly reticulate.
Ecology
Forest edges, riverine forest and among rocks on granite outcrops; from sea level to 1650 m.
Note
The very fine snow-white tomentum on the underside of the leaves (tending to become somewhat discoloured in old herbarium specimens), contrasting with the almost glabrous upper surface, is highly distinctive. Chromosome number: 2n=24 Common name: "Red Bitter Apple" or "Red Bitter Berry"
Distribution
ZIM C, ZIM E, MAL C, MAL S, MOZ N, MOZ Z, MOZ M Of uncertain origin, probably native to the Cape region of South Africa, now widespread throughout tropical and southern Africa, usually as a highland species, recorded from Ethiopia southwards throughout East Africa to South Africa (Cape Prov.) and westw Mozambique Zimbabwe Malawi
Morphology General Habit
Short-lived, softly woody under shrub, shrub or sometimes a small tree, up to 5(8) m high; sympodia plurifoliate; hairs stellate, white (ageing greyish or yellowish in herbaria), very fine (c. 0.1–0.2 mm across), floccose, ± sessile, regular, with many short rays; prickles 1–5 mm long, straight or slightly curved, laterally ± compressed, often hairy from the base to above the middle.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Pistil
Ovary c. 1 mm in diameter, ± globose, glabrous except for few, minute, sub-apical glands; style 5–7(8) mm long, exceeding the stamens, straight or slightly curved at the apex, glabrous or with a few minute glands from the base to above the middle.
Cytology
Chromosome number: 2n=24.
[FZ]

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

Morphology General Habit
A shrub or tree up to 25 ft. high
Morphology General Indumentum
White tomentum on all parts, except the surfaces of the leaves
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers violet-purple.
[FWTA]

Sources

  • Art and Illustrations in Digifolia

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew
  • Flora Zambesiaca

    • Flora Zambesiaca
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of Tropical East Africa

    • Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of West Tropical Africa

    • Flora of West Tropical Africa
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2023. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2022 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images