Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Solanum americanum



Solanum americanum


  • Last modified
  • 10 December 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Solanum americanum
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Solanum americanum

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: Storfrugtet natskygge
  • Norway: Adventivs?tvier

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Solanales
  •                         Family: Solanaceae
  •                             Genus: Solanum
  •                                 Species: Solanum americanum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The section Solanum (synonym: sect. Morella) encompasses the Solanum nigrum species complex, which is one of the largest and most variable species groups of the genus. The section has a large number of morphogenetically distinct taxa that demonstrate their greatest diversity and numbers in the neotropics, especially South America (Edmonds and Chweya, 1997). S. americanum Mill. is a taxonomically variable species with two formally recognized botanical varieties (var. americanum and var. nodiflorum (Jacq.) Edmonds) and a single subspecies nutans (R.J. Henderson) RJF Henderson (RBG, 2017). However, Manoko et al. (2007) used AFLP markers to support the elevation of var. nodiflorum to a separate species S. nodiflorum. The closest relatives of S. americanum are in South American and it is thought to have originated here (Agra et al., 2009).

Särkinen et al. (2015) has presented a revised phylogenetic circumscription of the Morelloid clade of Solanum, which includes the black nightshades, using plastid (trnT-F intergenic spacers), nuclear ribosomal ITS, and low-copy nuclear (waxy) data. Chemotaxonomic studies of the S. nigrum complex using alkaloids support the distinction of S. americanum, S. chenopodioides and S. villosum as separate species (Mohy-ud-Din et al., 2010). S. nigrum has been subsumed under S. americanum (RBG, 2017).

Use of the same or similar vernacular names for several species of the group causes problems with identification. In Africa all species of sect. Solanum with blackish fruits are known as S. nigrum, including S. americanum. S. scabrum is often confused with S. americanum but S. scabrum has thicker stems, larger rounded leaves and larger fruits (Manoko and Weerden, 2004).

Morphological variability in the species complex is largely due to a combination of phenotypic and genotypic variation in floral and vegetative characters, along with interspecific hybridization accompanied by backcrossing to the parental species (Edmonds and Chweya, 1997). An identification key to the species of sect. Solanum in Eurasia and Africa is presented by Edmonds and Chweya (1997).


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Annual or short-lived perennial herb, erect and widely spreading, up to 150 cm tall unarmed; stem rounded or narrowly winged, sometimes warty, glabrous or sparsely pubescent, young stem sometimes covered with curved, simple hairs. Leaves arranged spirally to almost opposite, simple; petiole 1–9 cm long; blade ovate to lanceolate, up to 14(–16) cm x 7(–12) cm, cuneate to truncate at base and decurrent along the petiole, acute to acuminate at apex, entire to toothed, glabrous or sparsely pubescent. Inflorescence simple umbellate cymes, 3- to 10-flowered; peduncles to 2.8 cm long, elongating up to 4 cm in fruit. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous; pedicel 5–10 mm long, becoming nodding; calyx cup-shaped, 1.5–2 mm in diameter, lobes ovate to oblong, reflexed in fruit; corolla deeply stellate, 5–9 mm in diameter, white or flushed purple with basal yellow-green star, lobes ovate-oblong, approx. 3 mm long; stamens inserted on corolla throat, filaments 0.5–2 mm long, with hairs on inner side, anthers yellow, connivent, 1.5–2 mm long, opening by terminal pores; ovary superior, globose, approx. 1 mm in diameter, style 2.5–4 mm long usually exserted beyond anthers, hairy in the lower part, stigma capitate, pale green. Fruit a globose berry 4–8(–10) mm in diameter, from green turning to glossy purplish black at maturity, rarely dark green, many-seeded. Seeds discoid, 1–1.5(–2) mm long, creamy coloured, often tinged with purple (Edmonds and Chweya, 1997; Manoko and Weerden, 2004).


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S. americanum is widespread throughout the tropics and subtropics, rare casual in southern Europe, and thought to be native in South America. It is a variable cosmopolitan weed across a large part of its range. It also occurs in New Zealand and Australia (Edmonds and Chweya, 1997).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 19 Jun 2021
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes




-Tamil NaduPresent
-Uttar PradeshPresent
-West BengalPresent
-Ryukyu IslandsPresent
Saudi ArabiaPresent
South KoreaPresent


SpainPresent, Only undercover/indoors

North America

Costa RicaPresent
El SalvadorPresent
Puerto RicoPresent
United StatesPresent



South America

-Espirito SantoPresent
-Rio Grande do SulPresent
-Sao PauloPresent

Habitat List

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Biology and Ecology

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Seedling growth is fast after epigeal germination and flowering occurs within 2 months of seed germination. Normally self pollinated, cross pollination does occur often facilitated by bees and syrphid flies. Flowering continues and fruits crop with the pedicel when ripe. Birds eat the fruits and disperse the seeds.

Often found in disturbed ground from sea level to 2926 m (Edmonds and Chweya, 1997), but it is mainly found at low altitudes growing as a weed on various soil types in open or lightly shaded areas. In semiarid regions it occurs near water sources or infests irrigated fields as it does not tolerate drought (Manoko and Weerden, 2004).


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Leaves and young shoots are boiled and used as a leafy vegetable. They possess a degree of bitterness which may be reduced by refreshing the cooking water or serving together with cooked amaranth.

Although, at least in Africa, S. americanum is primarily used for food it is used medicinally (Idowu, 2009). Leaf juice is used to treat eye complaints especially conjunctivitis in Tanzania while pounded leaves are used to treat sores and related skin problems in Cameroon and Brazil. Other traditional medicinal uses include the treatment of heart pain using raw leaves while fruits have been used to treat worms in poultry in Nigeria. Normally S. americanum fruits are considered to be inedible but they are consumed when ripe in parts of Kenya and in the border region between southeastern Zimbabwe and Mozambique (Manoko and Weerden, 2004).

In Hawaii S. americanum has been used to treat asthma (Hope et al., 1993). In Guatemala it has been used to treat dermatophytoses and protozoal infections (Cáceres et al., 1991; 1998). In Puerto Rico it has been used as a molluscicide and to treat gastrointestinal disorders (Hernández et al., 1984; Meléndez and Capriles, 2002). Cutaneous leishmaniasis has been treated in Brazil using S. americanum (França et al., 1996).

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Fruits
  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Veterinary


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Agra, M. de F., Nurit-Silva, K., Berger, L. R., 2009. Flora of Paraíba, Brazil: Solanum L. (Solanaceae)., Acta Botanica Brasilica, 23(3):826-842

Ayesha Mohy-ud-Din, Zaheer-ud-Din Khan, Mushtaq Ahmad, Kashmiri, M. A., 2010. Chemotaxonomic value of alkaloids in Solanum nigrum complex., Pakistan Journal of Botany, 42(1):653-660

Cáceres, A., López, B. R., Giron, M. A., Logemann, H., 1991. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of dermatophytic infections. 1. Screening for antimycotic activity of 44 plant extracts., Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 31(3):263-276

Cáceres, A., López, B., González, S., Berger, I., Tada, I., Maki, J., 1998. Plants used in Guatemala for the treatment of protozoal infections. I. Screening of activity to bacteria, fungi and American trypanosomes of 13 native plants., Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 62(3):195-202

Edmonds, J. M., Chweya, J. A., 1997. Black nightshades: Solanum nigrum L. and related species., In: Black nightshades: Solanum nigrum L. and related species.. International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). 113 pp..

França, F., Lago, E. L., Marsden, P. D., 1996. Plants used in the treatment of leishmanial ulcers due to Leishmania (Vannia) braziliensis in an endemic area of Bahia, Brazil., Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical, 29(3):229-232

Hassan LG, Umar KJ, 2008. Nutritional value of nightshade (Solanum americanum L.) leaves, Electronic Journal of Food and Plants Chemistry, 3(1):14-17

Hernández L, Muñoz RA, Miró G, Martínez M, Silva-Parra J , Chávez PI, 1984. Use of medicinal plants by ambulatory patients in Puerto Rico, American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy , 41(10):2060-2064

Hope BE, Massey DG, Fournier-Massey G, 1993. Hawaiian material medica for asthma, Hawaii Medical Journal , 52(6):160-166

Idowu, O. O., 2009. Contribution of neglected and underutilized crops to household food security and health among rural dwellers in Oyo State, Nigeria., Acta Horticulturae:49-56

Ijarotimi, O. S., Ekeh, O., Ajayi, O. P., 2010. Nutrient composition of selected medicinal leafy vegetables in Western Nigeria., Journal of Medicinal Food, 13(2):476-479

Ladeira, A. M., 1997. Seed dormancy in nightshade., Pesquisa Agropecuária Brasileira, 32(12):1317-1323

Luo Ming, Ding LingWen, Ge ZhiJuan, Wang ZhenYu, Hu BoLun, Yang XiaoBei, Sun QiaoYang, Xu ZengFu, 2012. The characterization of SaPIN2b, a plant trichome-localized proteinase inhibitor from Solanum americanum., International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 13(11):15162-15176

Manoko ML, Weerden GM van der, 2004. Solanum americanum Mill, In: Grubben GJH, Denton OA, eds. Vegetables. Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA) 2. Wageningen, Netherlands: PROTA Foundation, Backhuys, CTA. 477-480.

Manoko, M. L. K., Berg, R. G. van den, Feron, R. M. C., Weerden, G. M. van der, Mariani, C., 2007. AFLP markers support separation of Solanum nodiflorum from Solanum americanum sensu stricto (Solanaceae)., Plant Systematics and Evolution, 267(1/4):1-11

Meléndez, P. A., Capriles, V. A., 2002. Molluscicidal activity of plants from Puerto Rico., Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 96(2):209-218

Mwai, G. N., Onyango, J. C., Abukusta-Onyango, M. O., 2007. Taxonomic identification and characterization of African nightshades (Solanum L. section Solanum)., African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, 7(4):unpaginated

Mwai, G. N., Onyango, M. O. A., Onyango, J. C., Chadha, M. L., Oluoch, M. O., 2009. Effect of N-fertilization on yield components of nightshade., Acta Horticulturae:727-732

Mwai, G. N., Onyango, M. O. A., Onyango, J. C., Chadha, M. L., Oluoch, M. O., 2009. Effect of planting density on yield components of nightshade., Acta Horticulturae:733-739

O'Connor-Sánchez, A., Domínguez-May, Á. V., Keb-Llanes, M. A., González-Estrada, T. A., Peña-Ramírez, Y. J., 2010. Efficient plant regeneration from leaf explants of Solanum americanum., African Journal of Biotechnology, 9(36):5830-5835 HTTP://

Ojiewo CO, Mwai GN, Abukutsa-Onyango MO, Agong SG, Nono-Womdim R, 2013. Exploiting the genetic diversity of vegetable African nightshades, Bioremidation, Biodiversity and Bioavailability , 7(1):6-13

Ondieki, M. J., Aguyoh, J. N., Opiyo, A., 2011. Variations in growth and yield characteristics of three black nightshade species grown under high altitude conditions., Agriculture and Biology Journal of North America, 2(3):401-406

RBG, 2017. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Missouri Botanic Gardens, The Plant List

Romay, G., Chirinos, D. T., Geraud-Pouey, F., Torres, M., Bragard, C., 2016. First report of Potato yellow mosaic virus infecting Solanum americanum in Venezuela., New Disease Reports, 34:20

Särkinen, T., Barboza, G. E., Knapp, S., 2015. True black nightshades: phylogeny and delimitation of the Morelloid clade of Solanum., Taxon, 64(5):945-958

Witek, K., Jupe, F., Witek, A. I., Baker, D., Clark, M. D., Jones, J. D. G., 2016. Accelerated cloning of a potato late blight-resistance gene using RenSeq and SMRT sequencing., Nature Biotechnology, 34(6):656-660

Distribution References

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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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