The nightshade or potato family
The incredible morphological and chemical diversity, fundamental economic importance and worldwide distribution make the Solanaceae one of the most fascinating groups of flowering plants.
Medium sized family with 90 genera and 3000-4000 species, with great variation in habit, morphology and ecology.
Worldwide on all continents except Antarctica. The majority of species diversity occurs in Central and South America. Other areas of diversity include Australia and Africa.
- Food - edible fruits and tubers such as the tomato, potato, aubergine/eggplant and chilli pepper;
- Horticulture - common ornamental plants include Petunia, Schizanthus (commonly known as the butterfly flower), Salpiglossis (commonly known as painted or velvet tongue), Browallia and floripondio;
- Medicinal, poisonous, or psychotropic effects - famed for their alkaloid content and used throughout history deadly nightshade, jimson weed, tobacco, henbane and belladonna are sources of drugs such as atropine, hyoscine, nicotine and other alkaloids;
- Biological study – model experimental organisms such as tobacco, petunia, tomato and potato are used in examining fundamental biological questions in cell, molecular and genetic studies.