nightshade family

nightshade family

Family Solanaceae, composed of at least 2,400 species of flowering plants in about 95 genera. Though found worldwide, the nightshades are most abundant in tropical Latin America. Many are economically important as food or medicinal plants. Among the most important are the potato, eggplant, tomato, garden pepper, tobacco, and many garden ornamentals, including the petunia. The medicinally significant nightshades are potent sources of such alkaloids as nicotine, atropine, and scopolamine; they include deadly nightshade (belladonna), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), henbane, and mandrake. The genus Solanum contains almost half the species in the family. The species usually called nightshade in North America and England is S. dulcamara, also called bittersweet and woody nightshade.

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Purple Nightshade (Solanum xanti) or San Diego Nightshade is a semi-evergreen perennial vine, originally native to California, it can now be found in most of North America. It grows in shrublands, oak/pine woodlands, as well as deciduous and coniferous forests, to elevation, in sandy, rocky or clay soils. It is found in areas that receive 10-20" of rainfall annually and prefers partial sun. It ranges from two to four feet in height, and two to four feet in width. Purple Nightshade has been observed 'climbing' higher on fences, shrubs and saplings, sometimes 'choking' or blocking sunlight thereby killing off the host plant.

Purple Nightshade flowers are a blue purple and approximately an inch wide, and foliage is dark green. It blooms in spring to early summer. The plant is poisonous to humans. Due to Purple Nightshade's poisonous nature, tomatoes (also a member of the Nightshade family) were thought to be as equally toxic by many North Americans as late as the early eighteenth century.


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