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Springbrook, Qld. Photo: G. Leiper G. Leiper

O'Reilly's, Qld. Photo: G. Leiper G. Leiper

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4 (1981) 96, fig. 26.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.

Synonymy

* Solanum mauritianum Scop., Delic. Insub. 3: 16, t. 8 (1788)

T: Based on plants cultivated in Italy from seed from Mauritius; holo: loc. cit. t. 8, fide K.E. Roe, Brittonia 24: 254 (1972).

S. auriculatum Aiton, Hort. Kew. 1: 246 (1789).

T: L'Heritier Herb.; holo: G-DC, n.v., fide K.E. Roe, op. cit. 253, microfiche AD.

Description

Shrub or small tree to 4 m, green or grey-green, densely pubescent with stellate hairs; hairs loose and tufted on young growth, sparse on upper leaf-surface, dense on lower surface; prickles absent.

Leaves elliptic; lamina 9-30 cm long, 3.5-14 cm wide, slightly discolorous, entire to slightly undulate; petiole 3-9 cm long, with 1-2 small sessile leaves in axil except on smaller twigs.  

Inflorescence branched, many-flowered; peduncle 3-15 cm long to first fork; pedicels 2-3 mm long. Calyx 4-6 mm long; lobes triangular, 1.5-3 mm long, slightly enlarged in fruit. Corolla stellate, 15-25 mm diam., violet. Anthers 2-3 mm long.  

Berry globular, 10-15 mm diam., dull yellow, pubescent, becoming glabrous with age. Seeds 1.5-2 mm long, light brown or yellowish. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Native to South America, introduced and now widespread in many tropical countries. Naturalised in sub-coastal areas of N.S.W. and Qld, and locally in S.A.

Usually associated with disturbed habitats in higher rainfall regions.

Common name

Wild Tobacco Tree, Woolly nightshade

Relationships

 A member of subg. Brevantherum, species of which are usually shrubby, have stellate hairs, and have many-branched corymbose inflorescences.

Other species of this group found in Australia are S. erianthum and S. abutiloides.

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Notes

Solanum mauritianum forms dense understoreys with little else in them and New Zealand studies have shown the plants to have an allelopathic effect on the germination of at least one native species.
 
Reference: E. van den Bosch, B.G.Ward & B.D.Clarkson (2004). Woolly nightshade (Solanum mauritianum) and its allelopathic effects on New Zealand native Hebe stricta seed germination. New Zealand Plant Protection 57: 98-101.
 
Reported poisonous to pigs and cattle. A number of birds actively seek out the fruits, amongst them the Regent bowerbird in the Springbrook area, and this undoubtedly aids in the spread of this species.

Derivation of epithet

The epithet is a reference to Mauritius, the source of the seeds of the type collection.

Selected specimens

S.A.: Waterfall Gully, Apr. 1974, T.O. Browning (AD); Waterfall Gully, B. Cumberland 62 (AD). Qld: Evelyn, D.J. Collins C74-10 (BRI). N.S.W.: 55 km SW of Grafton, L. Haegi 1414 (NSW).

Plant status, if any

A fact sheet on this species as a pest in Qld can be downloaded from http://www.nqccs.com.au/library/weeds/wild_tobacco.pdf but it seems that it is not a declared plant for the state.

From the web

Excellent images showing the flowers and fruits and a fact sheet about S. mauritianum as a weed in NSW can be accessed through the South Coasts Weeds site with an image of flowers and fruits

Images of this plant as a weed can be seen on the Save Our Waterways Now site.

An infestation onTamborine Mountain in the 1950s can be seen at www.griffith.edu.au/ins/collections/webb/html/4-58.html

A photograph of this species by Hugh & Nan Nicholson can be seen on the Terania Rainforest Publishing Photo Library site.

The invasive assessment of this species by the Victorian Government reveals information about the properties of S. mauritianum. It can be seen at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/dpi/vro/vrosite.nsf/pages/invasive_tree_tobacco

A fact sheet for this species can be downloaded from the SA eFlora site.

A list of references to S. mauritianum as a weed can be found on the Global Invasive Species Database and a 1999 report on the prospects for biological control of the species in New Zealand can be downloaded at http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/researchpubs/WoollyNightshade.pdf  as can a Feb 2005 fact sheet on its control in the Bay of Plenty region at http://www.ebop.govt.nz/Factsheets/PestPlants-050615-Factsheet01WoolyNightshade.pdf 

A comprehensive fact sheet on this species in the Pacific can be seen on the Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) website and and for South Africa on their Weeds & Invasive Plants site.

Further information and links for this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.

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