Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Solanaceae or Nightshade or Potato Family

The Solanaceae, Nightshade or Potato Family is a large and important family of flowering plants. Members have a broad range of geographic distribution, world-wide with most in tropical areas especially in North and South America, others in sub-tropical and temperate regions of North America. Australia also has significant populations. Species are found in a wide range of habitats, morphology and ecology. The family includes a broad range of general forms including annuals, biennials, perennials, shrubs, small trees, vines and lianas.

The Plant List includes more than 110 genera and over 2,600 accepted species names. In North America, the US Department of Agriculture reports over 40 genera with more than 300 accepted taxa overall.

The largest genera is Solanum with nearly ½ of all Solanaceae species. Solanaceae contains plants of significant economic important including agricultural crops, medicinal, spices, weeds and ornamental species. Plants of great economic importance would include the potato (Solanum tuberosum), tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), peppers (Capsicum spp.) and tobacco (Nicotiana spp.). Poisonous plants include the Jimsonweeds, various Nightshades (Solanum spp.). One species Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) has both poisonous and medicinal properties.

General plant characteristics: Growth: annual or perennial, some plants have poisonous alkaloids, others important foods; Stems: stellate or branched pubescence; many with prickles; Leaves: simple or compound, alternate, exstipulate; Inflorescence: cymose; Flowers: bisexual and actinomorphic; solitary or clustered, corolla is sympetalous, sepals and petals usually 5 and 5, flowers often conspicuous and showy, insect pollination; Fruit: often a berry or capsule.

In the southwestern United States there are approximately 26 genera in Solanaceae. The largest genera in the southwest include Solanum, Physalis and Lycium. Arizona has approximately 13 genera with 55 species.

  • Calibrachoa parviflora, Seaside Petunia
  • Datura discolor, Desert Thorn-apple
  • Datura quercifolia, Chinese Thorn-Apple
  • Datura wrightii, Western Jimson Weed
  • Lycium exsertum, Arizona Desert-thorn
  • Lycium fremontii, Fremont's Thornbush
  • Lycium macrodon, Desert Wolfberry
  • Nicotiana glauca, Tree Tobacco
  • Nicotiana obtusifolia, Desert Tobacco
  • Physalis acutifolia, Sharpleaf Groundcherry
  • Physalis crassifolia, Yellow Nightshade Groundcherry
  • Physalis hederifolia, Ivyleaf Groundcherry
  • Physalis pubescens, Husk Tomato
  • Quincula lobata, Purple Ground Cherry
  • Solanum americanum, American Black Nightshade
  • Solanum elaeagnifolium, Silverleaf Nightshade
  • Solanum fendleri, Fendler's Horsenettle
  • Solanum heterodoxum, Melon Leaf Nightshade
  • Solanum hindsianum, Hinds Nightshade
  • Solanum rostratum, Buffalobur Nightshade
  • Solanum xanti, Purple Nightshade
  • Date Family Profile Completed: 08/31/2016
    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database.[and all genera cited above - (accessed 08/31/2016).
    The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 08/31/2016).
    Bye, Robert. 2001. Solanaceae, Potato Family;. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science and Canotia
    "Berry, Paul E., D’Arcy, William G., et. al. Family". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 31 Aug. 2016
    Gerald (Gerry) Carr, Phd., Emeritus Professor of Botany, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Botany Department website - (accessed 08/31/2016).
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Solanaceae', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 9 August 2016, 04:16 UTC, [accessed 31 August 2016]
    Wikipedia contributors, 'Atropa belladonna', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 August 2016, 20:57 UTC, [accessed 31 August 2016]
    Mary Barkworth, Director.; Solanaceae (Asteridae); Family of tomatoes and potatoes;