Tomato Family

Updated by Marc Williams                                 May, 2018

Solanaceae / Tomato Family / Solanales

A link to a photo album of members of the Solanaceae can be seen a Thomas Elpel’s site below



Tomato has now been moved from Lycopersicon esculentum to Solanum lycopersicum (Weakley, 2008).


Cultivated crops include Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) Eggplant (Solanum melongena) and Peppers (Capsicum spp.). Some types of Ground Cherries (Physalis spp.) are wild edibles. Apparently the leaf protein of Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) can be used in a number of food applications including cereals, drinks and thickeners (Facciola, 1998).

According to Cornucopia II (1998) the amazing tome by Stephen Facciola numerous species of Solanum have been consumed around the world mostly for fruits and often fermented into typic preparations as seen below. However there are at least 1400 species of Solanum in the world (Judd et al., 2008). It should be noted that PEOPLE HAVE DIED!!! by mistaking the fruits of certain species of the Solanaceae for food let alone the leaves!

African Scarlet Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) Tropical Africa/Asia

Pepino Dulce (Solanum muricatum) Andean South America

Children’s Tomato (Solanum anomalum) Tropical Africa

Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)

Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare) Australia/New Zealand

Popolo (Solanum nodiflorum) Tropics including Hawaii

Wonderberry/Sunberry Solanum x burbankii Tropical Africa

Lulo comun (Solanum pseudolulo) Colombia

Tzimbalo (Solanum caripense) Andean South America

Golden Fruit of the Andes/Naranjillo (Solanum quitoense) Andean South America

Desert Raisin (Solanum centrale) Australia

Garden Huckleberry (Solanum scabrum)  West Africa?

Bitter Potato (Solanum x curtilobum) Andean South America

Cocona Uvilla (Solanum sessiflorum var. alibile) Colombia

Papa del Monte (Solanum demissum) Central America

Cocona (Solanum sessiflorum var. georgicum)

Fendler Potato (Solanum fendleri ) South Western North America

Pea Eggplant (Solanum torvum) Tropics

Terong asam (Solanum ferox)  Southeast Asia

Cannibal’s Tomato (Solanum uporo) Polynesia

Ikan (Solanum incanum) Tropical Africa/Asia

Papa morda (Solanum verrucosum) Mexico

Terong pipit puteh (Solanum indicum)

Tumo (Solanum vestissimum) Colombia

Colorado Wild Potato (Solanum jamesii) Southwestern North America

Thorny Nightshade (Solanum xanthocarpum) Southern Asia to Polynesia

Gboma Eggplant (Solanum macrocarpon) Tropical Africa



Jaltomate (Solanum incanum) from Central America, Ikan (Solanum incanum) from Africa/Asia and Terong Pipit Puteh (Solanum indicum) from Tropical Asia are three plants in this family who’s leaves are eaten as well as fruits (Facciola, 1998). Numerous species of Wolfberry/Goji Berry (Lycium spp.) are other plants whose bitter leaves are eaten after cooking (Winston & Maimes, 2007). i got to meet the native Carolina Goji (Lycium carolinianum) on Sanibel Island in SW Florida whereupon i ate a couple berries that tasted pretty yum. Several species of Gojis are famous Adaptogenic medicinals that can sometimes naturalize and become invasive. It should be noted that PEOPLE HAVE DIED!!! by mistaking fruits of certain species from the Solanaceae for food let alone the leaves!


Tropical soda apple is grown as a source of steroids in some countries (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007).


Many members of the Solanaceae are DEADLY poisonous!!! One type of phytochemical are anticholinergic poisons (Judd et al., 2008). Members of the Solanaceae may also uptake excess nitrates (Kingsbury, 1964). Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) contains a convulsant poison (Judd et al., 2008). Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), Horse Nettle (S. carolinense) and Potato (S. tuberosum)  can cause contact dermatitis (Judd et al., 2008). Steroidal saponins may also occur in the Solanaceae as well (Wink & Van Wyk, 2008).


Fruits from Horse Nettle (Solanum carolinense) and American Black Nightshade (Solanum americanum) are consumed by game birds like Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse, and Northern Bobwhite as well as numerous songbirds including Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and others (J. H. Miller & K. V. Miller, 2005).


Several plants from the Tomato family are considered invasive. Carolina Horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) is native but a terribly invasive spiny toxic weed.  Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) and Aquatic Soda Apple (Solanum tampicense) are invasive in the South. Tropical Soda Apple spread from 25,000 acres to over 1 million acres between 1990-1996 (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007). They are also alternate hosts for many crop pests and diseases. The perennial Sacred Datura (Datura inoxia) and annuals Small Datura (Datura discolor) and Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium) are weeds of the west (Whitson, 2001). Many species of Solanum including (Solanum dulcamara, Solanum elaeagnifolium, Solanum nigrum, Solanum ptycanthum, Solanum rostratum, Solanum physalifolium, Solanum triflorum) are also considered invasive. Eurasian Black Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger ) can make half a million seeds (S. R. Kaufman & W. Kaufman, 2007).  However this plant is still used to make antispasmodic medicine and has a rich ethnobotanical history (Van Wyk & Wink, 2004).

Turkeyberry (Solanum torvum) was probably introduced from Asia and has become a pest problem in Hawaii on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. However, the fruits are apparently used in SE Asia (Whitson, 2001).

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) is an etheogenic plant that sometimes spreads. Ground cherries (Physalis spp.), Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are all edible plants that will volunteer in the garden.

Dye Plants:

Tomato (Eaton, 1973; A. Krochmal & C. Krochmal, 1974) and Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.)

Other Crafts:

Many members of the Tomato family are famous ornamentals all over the world.  Jimson weed (Datura stramonium), Belladonna (Atropa bella-donna), Angel trumpet (Brugmansia spp.), Tobacco (Nicotiana spp.), and Petunia (Petunia spp.) all have attractive flowers. Many members of this family are also aromatic. Ground Cherry (Physalis spp.) and Jimson Weeds (Datura spp.) can be dried for arrangements.

Literature Cited

Eaton, A. H. (1973). Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands. New York: Dover Publications.

Facciola, S. (1998). Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants. Vista, CA: Kampong Publications.

Judd, W. S., Campbell, C. S., Kellog, E. A., Stevens, P. F., & Donahue, M. J. (2008). Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach (3rd ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Kaufman, S. R., & Kaufman, W. (2007). Invasive Plants. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Krochmal, A., & Krochmal, C. (1974). The Complete Illustrated Book of Dyes from Natural Sources. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Miller, J. H., & Miller, K. V. (2005). Forest Plants Of The Southeast And Their Wildlife Uses (Revised.). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Van Wyk, B., & Wink, M. (2004). Medicinal Plants of the World: An Illustrated Scientific Guide to Important Medicinal Plants and Their Uses. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

Weakley, A. (2008). Flora of the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, northern Florida, and surrounding areas (Working Draft April.). Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Botanical Garden.

Whitson. (2001). Weeds of the West (9th ed.). University of Wyoming.

Wink, M., & Van Wyk, B. (2008). Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World (1st ed.). Portland, OR: Timber Press.



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