SOLANACEAE - The Potato Family

This is a large Family with around 2000-3000 species in 90 different genera, found in most temperate and tropical regions, with a large number coming from Australia and Central and South America. It is a family mainly of herbs, with a few shrubs and trees, and contains many of our most well-known food plants, including Potatoes, Tomatoes, Aubergines and Peppers. It also contains many popular garden ornamental plants, including Petunias, Browallia and Salpiglossis. There are several poisonous species, including Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) and Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium), and the family also contains the important economic plant, Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), which contains the highly toxic alkaloid nicotine.

Characteristics of this Plant Family:

Leaves, Stem & Roots ~ Members of this Family are often climbers or at least scrambling plants, often with hairy stems and leaves. The leaves are variable, and may be entire or dissected, without stipules, and are usually alternate. The calyx has five parts, which may be joined, and it often remains and enlarges around the fruit, as in Cape Gooseberry (Physalis) or the Shoo-Fly Plant (Nicandra).

Flowers ~ The flowers have five petals and are generally regular in shape. They may be round and flat or star-shaped, but are often bell shaped or tubular. They usually occur in groups in the leaf axils, although they may be solitary. There are five stamens attached to the corolla tube.

Seeds ~ The ovary is superior (inside the flower), and the fruit is either a berry or a capsule, often containing many light brown disc-shaped seeds.

Members of this Family usually have:

Regular flowers with five petals
Alternate leaves
Five stamens attached to the corolla tube
Superior ovary containing many yellowish disc-shaped seeds

*** Many parts of many members of this Plant Family are POISONOUS ***
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