SOLANACEAE - Potato Family  

Physalis(cape gooseberries, Chinese lanterns) are annuals or short-lived perennials, more or less hairy. The flowers are bell-shaped, but the most distinctive feature is the fruiting calyx which enlarges to cover the fruit and hangs downwards like a lantern. One species, P. minima(wild gooseberry), is widespread across tropical America, Asia and Africa, and occurs in all Australian States. It may have been introduced to northern Australia by Moluccan traders, prior to European settlement, alternatively, it could be native. It is a smooth, branching herb with ovate leaves, small pale yellow flowers and a 3cm long lantern enclosing the yellow fruit. It is common throughout the Kimberley, including the Ord River Irrigation Area and on Koolan Island. In the Kimberley it is a favourite food of feral pigs. Four other species have definitely been introduced. P. peruviana (cape gooseberry) is a short-lived perennial forming a domed shrub to 1m. The large ovate leaves are softly hairy, the flowers, produced in winter, are yellow with purple blotches. The yellow berry is edible. A garden escape in rich, moist soil in wasteland and around disturbed wetlands in the south-west. A native of South America. P. philadelphica (tomatillo)is an open-branching, sparsely hairy annual with ovate, slightly toothed leaves. The flowers have a yellow corolla and blue stamens while the berry is green. It is cultivated for its edible fruit, and may be naturalised on wasteland in the south-west. Native to North America. Two other species have occasionally been recorded as garden escapes in the south-west. P. pubescens is a branching perennial with greyish leaves, yellow flowers and an egg-shaped lantern around the yellow berry. Native to Asia. P. viscosa (sticky cape gooseberry) is a sprawling hairy perennial with small ovate, toothed leaves, pale yellow flowers and a yellow berry. A native of North America.

Physalis minima, GK

Solanum(nightshades, kangaroo apples).A very large genus of herbs, shrubs, trees and even climbers. They are usually hairy, and often prickly. The flower is star-shaped, sometimes a very pointed star, in other instances with almost no points at all. The fruit is a succulent berry. In Western Australia there are 43 native species, mostly in the arid zone, and 11 naturalised ones. Consult a specialist text for exact identification. Two similar species occur on roadsid es and wastelands. S. americanum (glossy nightshade) occurs from Geraldton to Albany, chiefly in wet areas. It is a sprawling or erect annual or short-lived perennial to 60cm. It has oval, dark green leaves. The small, star-shaped white flowers grow in stalked clusters from the leaf axils, and are followed by shiny black berries. A cosmopolitan weed, probably originally from America.

Solanum americanum, PH

S. nigrum(black berry nightshade) is distinguished from
S. americanum by the dull black or purplish berry, smaller anthers and seeds. Young fruits may be toxic. It is a common weed of gardens, horticultural crops, wastelands, disturbed woodlands, pastures, creeklines and wetlands from Broome to Albany. Often mistakenly called deadly nightshade. A native of Europe. Two tall, non-prickly shrubs have been introduced from eastern Australia. S. aviculare(kangaroo apple)is an erect shrub up to 4m high, with angular stems. The lower leaves are broad and lobed, the upper leaves often entire and up to 25cm long. Star shaped lilac or purple flowers occur in groups of up to 10. As the fruit develops, the fruit stalk lengthens and the sprays of orange-red berries become conspicuous. Found on wasteland around Perth.

S. nigrum, RR

S. laciniatum (kangaroo apple) is a very similar plant, distinguished by having a notched, rather than pointed, corolla. It is an upright shrub that can grow to a height and spread of 3m. The leaves can be entire or lobed and are up to 20cm long. The purple, star-shaped flowers are 3cm across and held in groups of up to 10 on long stalks, which elongate even further as the fruit ripens so that the hanging bunches of orange-yellow berries are very conspicuous. A more widespread weed than S. aviculare, found on the edges of rivers and creeks between Perth and Cape Riche.
Other non-prickly species include
S. pseudocapsicum(Jerusalem cherry), a shrub that may reach 1m, with an erect, branching stem, dark green lanceolate leaves to 10cm long and star-shaped white flowers. The fruit is a bright red berry. It is planted in gardens, and naturalised in the Kimberley. A native of America. S. triflorum (threeflowernightshade, cut-leaf nightshade)is a glandular-hairy, prostrate annual sometimes rooting at the nodes. The small ovate leaves are deeply dissected and the star-shaped flowers are usually in threes and are white or pale lavender. The fruit is cream with green markings. The whole plant has a 'fruit-salad' smell. Localised agricultural weed in the central wheatbelt. Native to North America.

S. laciniatum , GK

All the other naturalised species are more or less prickly.

S. elaeagnifolium (silver-leaf nightshade) DPis an upright, often suckering perennial with a somewhat prickly stem and ovate, sometimes lobed leaves that are felty grey. The flowers are large, 3cm across, and usually bright violet but can be white or pink. The fruit is a pendulous yellow berry. A serious agricultural weed in the south-west of Western Australia. Native to America.

S. elaeagnifolium , RK

S. linnaeanum (was S. hermannii or S. sodomaeum) (apple of Sodom) DP, PP is a stiff, prickly undershrub, growing to 2m or more in height and width at favourable locations. The stems, branches, leaves and calyces are all spiny. The leaves, which may grow over 10cm in length, are deeply lobed, with prickles on both upper and lower surfaces, associated with the veins. The flowers are purple and broadly star-shaped, with prominent yellow stamens in the centre. The berry is yellow when mature and poisonous to humans and stock. It is a common weed of wasteland and grazed woodlands and creeklines on the Swan Coastal Plain. It is a native of South Africa. S. rostratum(buffalo burr) PP is easily distinguished from other species, as it has bright yellow flowers. It is a very prickly annual to 1m with large, almost palmately-divided leaves. The prickly calyx enlarges to enclose the berry in a spiny, burr-like case. An occasional, minor agricultural weed in the wheatbelt. Native to North America. S. sisymbriifolium(viscid nightshade)is an erect, short-lived perennial to 1.5m tall. It is both glandular-hairy and very prickly. The prickles are stout and can be over 1cm long; they are reddish-yellow and impart a rusty appearance to the plant. The leaves are pinnately lobed and the flowers may be white or bluish-purple. The fruit is a bright red, shiny, globular berry. Minor weed of wasteland around Perth. Native to South America.

S. linnaeanum , APB

A plant that is native to the south-west of Western Australia, but behaves like a weed on wasteland road and railsides, coping well with grading, is S. hoplopetalum (Afghan thistle) PP. It is also often troublesome in crop and pasture paddocks. It is an extremely prickly perennial, growing annually in spring from underground stems. Every part of the plant is spiny and the prickles may be over 1cm long. It has oblong, lobed leaves and white or pale bluish flowers in spring and summer. The prickly calyx expands to cover the fruit. Probably native to the wheatbelt and Goldfields. This species has sometimes been confused with S. hystrix, a native of South Australia.

S. hoplopetalum , RK

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