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Brugmansia lg.jpg
A flowering Brugmansia x insignis
from the US Botanic Garden
Scientific classification


The nightshades (Solanaceae) are a family of plants. All of them bear flowers. Many members of the family are edible, but some are poisonous. Very often, only certain parts of the plant are edible or poisonous. Well-known members of this family are chili peppers, petunias, deadly nightshade, mandrakes, potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines (eggplants) and tobacco.

Because it is thought that nightshades can cause or increase swelling and pain, many people do not eat them.


The following taxonomic synopsis of the Solanaceae, including subfamilies, tribes and genera, is based on the most recent molecular phylogenetics studies of the family:

Cestroideae (Browallioideae)

Cestrum elegans0
Cestrum elegans, a cestroidea used as an ornamental
Browallia americana Flowers Closeup 1350px
Browallia americana
Salpiglossis sinuata flower front view
Flower of Salpiglossis sinuata, Botanischer Garten Jena, Germany

This subfamily is characterised by the presence of pericyclic fibres, an androecium with four or five stamens, frequently didynamous. The basic chromosome numbers are highly variable, from x=7 to x=13. The subfamily consists of eight genera (divided into three tribes) and about 195 species distributed throughout the Americas. The genus Cestrum is the most important, as it contains 175 of the 195 species in the subfamily. The Cestreae tribe is unusual because it includes taxa with long chromosomes (from 7.21 to 11.511 µm in length), when the rest of the family generally possesses short chromosomes (for example between 1.5 and 3.52 µm in the Nicotianoideae)

  • Browallieae Hunz.
  • Cestreae tribe Don, three genera of woody plants, generally shrubs
    • Cestrum L., some 175 species distributed throughout the neotropic ecozone
    • Sessea Ruiz & Pav., 16 species from the Andes
    • Vestia Willd., monotypic genus from Chile
  • Salpiglossideae tribe (Benth.) Hunz.
    • Reyesia Gay, four species, distributed throughout Argentina and Chile
    • Salpiglossis Ruiz & Pav., two species originating from southern South America


This subfamily is characterized by the presence of drupes as fruit and seeds with curved embryos and large fleshy cotyledons. The basic chromosome number is x=13. It includes four genera and five species distributed throughout the Greater Antilles. Some authors suggest their molecular data indicate the monotypic genera Tsoala Bosser & D'Arcy should be included in this subfamily, endemic to Madagascar, and Metternichia to the southeast of Brazil. Goetzeaceae Airy Shaw is considered as a synonym of this subfamily.

  • Coeloneurum Radlk., monotypic genus endemic to Hispaniola
  • Espadaea Rchb., monotypic, from Cuba
  • Goetzea Wydler, includes two species from the Antilles
  • Henoonia Griseb., monotypic, originating in Cuba


Nierenbergia frutenscens0
Nierenbergia frutescens is a member of the subfamily Petunioidea.

Molecular phylogenetics indicates that Petunioideae is the sister clade of the subfamilies with chromosome number x=12 (Solanoideae and Nicotianoideae). They contain calistegins, alkaloids similar to the tropanes. The androecium is formed of four stamens (rarely five), usually with two different lengths. The basic chromosome number of this subfamily can be x=7, 8, 9 or 11. It consists of 13 genera and some 160 species distributed throughout Central and South America. Molecular data suggest the genera originated in Patagonia. Benthamiella, Combera, and Pantacantha form a clade that can be categorized as a tribe (Benthamielleae) that should be in the subfamily Goetzeoideae.

  • Benthamiella Speg., 12 species native to Patagonia
  • Bouchetia Dunal, three neotropical species
  • Brunfelsia L., around 45 species from the neotropics
  • Combera Sandw., two species from Patagonia
  • Fabiana Ruiz & Pav., 15 species native to the Andes
  • Hunzikeria D'Arcy, three species from the southwest United States and Mexico
  • Latua Phil., one species from the south of Chile
  • Leptoglossis Benth., seven species from western South America
  • Nierembergia Ruiz & Pav., 21 species from South America
  • Pantacantha Speg., monospecific genus from Patagonia
  • Calibrachoa Cerv. ex La Llave & Lex., consists of 32 species from the neotropics. The morphological data suggest this genus should be included within the Petunia. However, the molecular and cytogenetic data indicate both should be kept separate. In fact, Calibrachoa has a basic chromosome number x=9, while that of Petunia is x=7.
  • Petunia (Juss.) Wijsman, 18 species from South America
  • Plowmania Hunz. & Subils, monotypic genus from Mexico and Guatemala


Schizanthus pinnatus
Zygomorphic flowers, with bilabiate corolla of Schizanthus pinnatus, a schizanthoidea ornamental

The Schizanthoideae include annual and biennial plants with tropane alkaloids, without pericyclic fibres, with characteristic hair and pollen grains. The flowers are zygomorphic. The androecium has two stamens and three stamenodes, anther dehiscence is explosive. In terms of fruit type,the Schizanthoidae retain the plesiomorphic fruit form of the family Solanaceae, capsules, which rely on an anemochorous, abiotic form of dispersal. This is present in Schizanthoidae due both to the genetic constraints of early divergence (see below) as well as Schizanthus evolution and presence in open habitats. The embryo is curved. The basic chromosome number is x=10. Schizanthus is a somewhat atypical genus among the Solanaceae due to its strongly zygomorphic flowers and basic chromosome number. Morphological and molecular data suggest Schizanthus is a sister genus to the other Solanaceae and diverged early from the rest, probably in the late Cretaceous or in the early Cenozoic, 50 million years ago. The great diversity of flower types within Schizanthus has been the product of the species’ adaptation to the different types of pollinators that existed in the Mediterranean, high alpine, and desert ecosystems then present in Chile and adjacent areas of Argentina.

  • Schizanthus Ruiz & Pav., 12 species originating from Chile.


Annual plants with pericyclic fibres, their flowers are zygomorphic, the androecium has four didynamous stamens or three stamenodes; the embryo is straight and short. The basic chromosome number is x=12. It includes four genera and some 30 species distributed throughout South America.

  • Heteranthia Nees & Mart., one species from Brazil
  • Melananthus Walp., five species from Brazil, Cuba, and Guatemala
  • Protoschwenckia Soler , monotypic genus from Bolivia and Brazil, some molecular phylogenetic studies have suggested this genus has an uncertain taxonomic position within the subfamily
  • Schwenckia L., 22 species distributed throughout the neotropical regions of America


Tabak P9290021
Tobacco inflorescence, Nicotiana tabacum
  • Anthocercideae G. Don: This tribe, endemic to Australia, contains 31 species in seven genera. Molecular phylogenetic studies of the tribe indicate it is the sister of Nicotiana, and the genera Anthocercis, Anthotroche, Grammosolen, and Symonanthus are monophyletic. Some characteristics are also thought to be derived from within the tribe, such as the unilocular stamens with semicircular opercula, bracteolate flowers, and berries as fruit.
    • Anthocercis Labill., 10 species, Australia
    • Anthotroche Endl., four species, Australia
    • Crenidium Haegi, monotypic genus, Australia
    • Cyphanthera Miers, 9 species, Australia
    • Duboisia R.Br., four species, Australia
    • Gramnosolen Haegi, two species, Australia
    • Symonanthus Haegi, two species, Australia
  • Nicotianeae tribe Dum.
    • Nicotiana L., genus widely distributed, with 52 American species, 23 Australian, and one African


Tabasco peppers
Capsicum frutescens cultivar "tabasco", a solanoidea
Flor de beleño (Hyoscyamus niger)
Nicandra physalodes fax 01
Nicandra physalodes flower
Solandra maxima 1
Solandra maxima flower
Physalis einzeln
In the fruit of Physalis peruviana (Cape gooseberry), the persistent calyx surrounds the fruit.
Iochroma australe 2
Iochroma australe flower
Jaltomata procumbens flower
Jaltomata procumbens flower
Solanum bonariense flower
Cyphomandra betacea1
Flower of Solanum betaceum (=Cyphomandra betacea)
Acnistus arborescens flowers
Acnistus arborescens flower
Scopolia carniolica2
Scopolia carniolica flower
Cladograma de las solanáceas
Cladogram showing the relationship between some species of the subfamily Solanoideae
  • Capsiceae Dumort
    • Capsicum L. includes 40 accepted neotropical species
    • Lycianthes (Dunal) Hassler, some 200 species distributed throughout America and Asia
  • Datureae G. Don, two genera are perfectly differentiated at both the morphological and molecular levels, Brugmansia includes tree species, while Datura contains herbs or shrubs, the latter genus can be divided into three sections: Stramonium, Dutra and Ceratocaulis. Recent work suggests the need to create and include a third genus to accommodate the Bolivian shrub currently known as Iochroma cardenasianum q.v.
    • Brugmansia Persoon, six species from the Andes
    • Datura L., 12 neotropical species
  • Hyoscyameae Endl.
    • Anisodus Link, four species from China, India and the Himalayas
    • Atropa L., four Euro-Asiatic species
    • Atropanthe Pascher, monotypic genus from China
    • Hyoscyamus L., 10 accepted species distributed from the Mediterranean to China
    • Physochlaina G. Don, 6 accepted Euro-Asiatic species
    • Przewalskia Maxim., one species from China
    • Scopolia Jacq., disjointed distribution with one European species and another from Japan
  • Jaboroseae Miers
    • Jaborosa Juss., genus that includes 23 species from South America.
  • Solandreae Miers
    • Subtribe Juanulloinae consists 10 genera of trees and epiphytic shrubs with a neotropical distribution . Some of these genera (Dyssochroma, Merinthopodium and Trianaea) show a clear dependency on various species of bats both for pollination and dispersion of seeds.
      • Dyssochroma Miers, two species from the south of Brazil
      • Ectozoma Miers
      • Hawkesiophyton Hunz.
      • Juanulloa Ruiz & Pav., 11 species from South and Central America
      • Markea Rich., 9 species from South and Central America
      • Merinthopodium J. Donn. Sm. three species originating from South America
      • Rahowardiana D' Arcy
      • Schultesianthus Hunz., eight neotropical species
      • Trianaea Planch. & Linden, six South American species
    • Subtribe Solandrinae, a monotypical subtribe, differs from Juanulloinae in that its embryos have incumbent cotyledons and semi-inferior ovaries.
    • Solandra Sw., 10 species from the neotropical regions of America
  • Lycieae Hunz. has three genera of woody plants, which grow in arid or semiarid climates. The cosmopolitan genus Lycium is the oldest in the tribe and it has the greatest morphological variability. Molecular phylogenetic studies suggest both Grabowskia and Phrodus should be included in the Lycium, and this genus, along with Nolana and Sclerophylax, form a clade (Lyciina), which currently lacks a taxonomic category. The red fleshy berries dispersed by birds are the main type of fruit in Lycium. The different types of fruit in this genus have evolved from the type of berry just mentioned to a drupe with a reduced number of seeds.
    • Grabowskia Schltdl., three species from South America
    • Lycium L., 83 cosmopolitan species
    • Phrodus Miers, two species endemic to the north of Chile
  • Mandragoreae (Wettst.) Hunz. & Barboza tribe does not have a defined systematic position according to molecular phylogenetic studies.
    • Mandragora L., two species from Eurasia
  • Nicandreae Wettst. is a tribe with two South American genera. Molecular phylogenetic studies indicate the genera are not interrelated nor are they related with other genera of the family, so their taxonomic position is uncertain.
    • Exodeconus Raf., six species from western South America
    • Nicandra Adans, one species distributed throughout neotropical regions
  • Nolaneae Rchb. are mostly herbs and small shrubs with succulent leaves, they have very beautiful flowers that range from white to various shades of blue, their fruit is schizocarpal, giving rise to various nuts.
    • Nolana L., 89 species distributed throughout western South America
  • Physaleae Miers, is a large tribe that is the sister of Capsiceae.
    • Subtribe Iochrominae (Miers) Hunz., a clade within the Physaleae tribe. contains 37 species, mainly distributed in the Andes, assigned to six genera. The members of this subtribe are characterized by being woody shrubs or small trees with attractive tubular or rotated flowers. They also possess great floral diversity, containing every type is present in the family. Their flowers can be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, or white. The corolla can be tubular to rotated, with a variation of up to eight times in the length of the tube between the various species.
      • Acnistus Schott, one species distributed throughout the neotropics
      • Dunalia Kunth., five species from the Andes
      • Iochroma Benth., 24 species from the Andes
      • Saracha Ruiz & Pav., two species from the Andes.
      • Vassobia Rusby, two South American species
      • Eriolarynx Hunz., three species from Argentina and Bolivia
    • Physalinae (Miers) Hunz. , a monophyletic subtribe, contains 10 genera and includes herbs or woody shrubs with yellow, white, or purple solitary axillary flowers pollinated by bees. Once pollination occurs, the corolla falls and the calyx expands until it entirely covers the boll that is developing (the calyx is called accrescent). In many species, the calyx turns yellow or orange on maturity. The berries contain many greenish to yellow-orange seeds, often with red or purple highlights.
      • Brachistus Miers, three species from Mexico and Central America
      • Chamaesaracha (A.Gray) Benth. & Hook., has 10 species from Mexico and Central America.
      • Leucophysalis Rydberg, includes 3 species from the south west of the United States and Mexico.
      • Margaranthus Schlecht., with 1 species from Mexico.
      • Oryctes S. Watson, monotypic genus from the south west of the United States.
      • Quincula Raf. with just 1 species from the south west of the United States and from Mexico.
      • Physalis L., the largest genus of the subtribe, with 85 species distributed through the tropical regions of the Americas and with 1 species in China.
      • Witheringia L' Heritier, genus with 15 species from neotropical regions.
      • Tzeltalia, genus segregated from Physalis, with 2 species distributed throughout Mexico and Guatemala.
      • Darcyanthus, genus with just 1 species originating in Bolivia and Peru.
    • Subtribe Salpichroinae, this is a subtribe of Physaleae that includes 16 American species distributed in 1 genera:
      • Nectouxia Kunth., monotypic genus that is endemic to Mexico.
      • Salpichroa Miers, genus with 15 species from the Andes and other regions of South America.
    • Subtribe Withaninae, is a subtribe of Physaleae with a broad distribution, including 9 genera:
      • Archiphysalis Kuang, with 3 species from China and Japan.
      • Athenaea Sendtn., which includes 7 species from Brazil.
      • Aureliana Sendtn., with 5 species from South America.
      • Mellissia Hook. f., monotypic genus from Saint Helena with the common name Saint Helena Boxwood.
      • Physalisastrum Makino, with 9 Asiatic species.
      • Tubocapsicum (Wettst.) Makino, with just one species endemic to China.
      • Withania Pauq., with 10 species native to the Canary Islands, Africa and Nepal.
      • Cuatresia Hunz., with 11 neotropical species. Molecular studies indicate that this genus, along with Deprea and Larnax has an uncertain taxonomic position.
      • Deprea Raf., with 6 neotropical species.
      • Larnax Miers, many taxonomists consider it to be a synonym for Deprea, contains 22 species native to the Andes.
  • Tribe Solaneae. The genera Cyphomandra Sendtn., Discopodium Hochst., Normania Lowe, Triguera Cav. and Lycopersicum Mill have been transferred to Solanum. The subtribe is therefore composed of two genera:
    • Jaltomata Schltdl., which contains 50 neotropical species.
    • Solanum L., the largest genus in the family and one of the broadest of the angiosperms, with 1,328 species distributed across the whole world.
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