Nightshade Family – Solanaceae

The Nightshade family of more than 90 genera and 2500 species includes food plants such as sweet and cayenne peppers, chillies, potato, tomato and aubergine, wild flowers such as Bittersweet and Deadly Nightshade and popular garden plants such as Nicotiana (tobacco plant), Physalis, Solanum, Salpiglossis and Petunia. Generally the flowers are conspicuous and species are often poisonous. Flowers have 5 petals often united in a corolla tube and 5 stamens. The fruit is a berry.

Petunia Petunia parviflora is a typical wild petunia originally from Argentina but common in California. The Petunia genus has 17 species from which hundreds of hybrids have been created, probably from a cross with two other South American species P. axillaris and P. integrifolia.

This Petunia hybrid Petunia x hybrida flower has been opened up to show the 5 stamens with yellow anthers and 1 style with a flat-headed white stigma. The green ovary can be seen at the base of the style. Long-tongued bees enter the floral tube to reach the nectar at the base of the ovary

The Tobacco Plant Nicotiana mutabilis is native to Brazil where it is pollinated by hummingbirds. Its flowers change from white to pink as they mature.It is a common ornamental plant grown in Britain. The leaves of the species Nicotiana tabacum are cultivated and processed to produce tobacco

Chilean Potato Tree Solanum crispum is a garden climber native to Chile and Peru. It flowers throughout the summer. The cultivar Glasnevin is hardy  and the one usually planted. 

Deadly Nightshade Atropa belladonna is a rare  native shrub found in England in woods, waste ground, hedges and near old buildings on chalk. It is also found across Europe, western Asia and North Africa. 

The fruit is a sweet-tasting berry. Many members of the Solanaceae family are poisonous. All parts of Deadly Nightshade contain toxins such as atropine. The herb was used in eye-drops in the 16th century in Italy by women to cause the pupils of the eyes to dilate and make them more attractive, hence the name Atropa belladonna.

Chinese Lantern Physalis alkekengi is a popular garden plant native to Southern Europe and Asia. It produces an orange lantern-shaped structure around its fruit. 

Velvet Trumpet Flower Salpiglossis sinuata is an annual garden plant native to Chile. First introduced to Britain in 1820 it is now available as a range of hybrid cultivars in many colours. 

Bittersweet Solanum dulcamara is a wild flower native to Britain. It flowers from June to September

Bittersweet produces bright red poisonous fruit. It is a climber and is found on hedgerows throughout Britain.