Montag, 12. Dezember 2011

Plant of the Day (December 12th, 2011) - Solanum nigrum L.

Not a fungus again, this time I'll show you a new plant. It's Solanum nigrum L. from the Solanaceae family. In the German language, this species is known as “Schwarzer Nachtschatten” while common English names are “black nightshade”, “garden nightshade” or “hound berry”.

S. nigrum ssp. schuletsii - Habitus

There are to sub-species of this plant: Solanum nigrum ssp. nigrum and Solanum nigrum ssp. schultesii

It's a herb, which can reach a height until 50 centimetres (or 19.5 inches). The stem is angular and the whole plant dark green to purple. The leaves are also dark green and eggs-shaped, while the leaves of the sub-species Solanum nigrum ssp. nigrum has an entire margin and the leaves of Solanum nigrum ssp. schultesii has a lobate margin.

S. nirgrum ssp. schuletsii - berries (unripe)

Solanum nigrum ssp. schultesii is covered with many, protruding hairs; Solanum nigrum ssp. nigrum on the other side has only a few, smooth-fitting hairs.

The inflorescences of both sub-species consist of five to ten, small flowers. They are star-shaped, with five white petals. Flowering time is between June and October. The fruits are small, black berries, which resemble tomatoes. As the most species of the Solanaceae, these berries contain Alkaloids (e. g. Solanine) and are a little bit toxic. The consumption of to many fruits caused nausea, hallucinations, convulsions and a drop in body temperature. However, S. nigrum is also used as medicinal plant.

S. nigrum ssp. schuletsii - habitus

Today, you can find this species all over the world. It's true origin is unknown. Scientists believe, that it is native to Eurasia, the Mediterranean or Africa. In Europe, the sub-species Solanum nigrum ssp. nigrum can be found in the Northern regions, while Solanum nigrum ssp. schultesii is more common in the southern areas like the Mediterranean. (however, during the last years, Solanum nigrum ssp. schultesii has become more common also in Middle Europe).

S. nigrum ssp. schuletsii -stalk

Both sub-species are typical plants of ruderal wastelands and can be found on dumps, railway tracks and roadsides. They are also a typical garden weed. They prefer warm, sunny places and are very undemanding towards the soil but cannot tolerate dryness or frost.

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