Solanaceae, the Nightshade or Potato family, are herbs, shrubs, vines, or trees with often showy flowers, generally in branched clusters. There are about 85 genera and 2,300 species worldwide, mostly growing in tropical and warm temperature regions, especially in Central and South America. Several are poisonous, but others supply foods such as chili, bell pepper, tomato, potato, eggplant, and groundcherry. Tobacco comes from the family. Petunia, Painted-Tongue, and Butterfly Flower are grown as ornamentals. The flowers are usually radially symmetrical with 5 united sepals, 5 petals, united at base. Stamens are usually 5, sometimes fewer. All these parts are attached at the base of the ovary. The leaves are alternate, simple or lobed. The fruit is a berry or 2-chambered capsule.
Guide to Identify Presented Species of the Nightshade Family
FLOWERS WITH ROUNDED LOBES. TALL, COARSE PLANTS
Hyoscyamus niger Black Henbane Coarse plant, up to 100 cm tall. Introduced weed, poisonous, disturbed ground.
Flowers yellowish, 2-3 cm wide, with 5 round lobes from a urn-shaped calyx.
Leaves alternate, egg-shaped and cut into triangular, pointed lobes.
FLOWERS WITH POINTED LOBES. SLENDER PLANTS
Solanum dulcamara Climbing Nightshade Climbing perennial, introduced. Moist, partly shaded ground, on the plains.
Flowers blue, about 2 cm wide, with 5 pointed lobes and 5 yellow stamens.
Leaves alternate, spade-shaped, often with a pair of wing-like lobes at the base.
Solanum physalifolium Hairy Nightshade Branching annual, 15-60 cm tall, spreading-sticky-hairy. Moist, disturbed areas.
Flowers white, star-shaped, 7-12 mm wide, with 5 pointed lobes.
Leaves alternate, hairy, ovate, shallowly blunt-toothed or entire.
Solanum triflorum Cut-leaved Nightshade Low annual, spreading, 10-80 cm long, almost hairless. Disturbed ground.
Flowers white, star-shaped, 8-10 mm wide, with 5 pointed lobes.
Leaves alternate, often short-hairy, deeply pinnately cut into pointed lobes.
TANGLING SHRUBS WITH THORNY BRANCHES
Lycium barbarum Matrimony Vine Hairless shrub with long, sparsely thorny branches, 1-6 m tall. Disturbed areas.
Flowers 1-3 from leaf axils, blue-purple, about 2 cm wide, with 5-6 lobes.
Leaves alternate, elliptic to lanceolate, entire, round-tipped, 2-7 cm long.
Alphabetical listing with links to presented species of the Nightshade family: