Solanum stelligerum

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Solanum stelligerumFamily: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
Common names: Devil’s needles
ALA reference

This species is now doing really well and forming quite dense thickets. Several plants have produced fruit that is black instead of the normal bright red. This is probably due to a recessive gene. When we have grown chillies (also in the Solanaceae family) in our garden, occasionally a few plants have produced black fruit. (December 2011)

When we first started work on the restoration of the reserve a little over four and a half years ago, there were at most half a dozen plants of this species present. It is now very common and starting to form quite dense thickets with some plants almost three metres high. It bears pale lilac flowers throughout the year and these are followed by bright red fruit. Several references state that the fruit is edible but I suggest that if anyone plans to try them they should ensure that they only eat perfectly ripe fruit and then only in small quantities. Certainly fruit eating birds (such as the fig bird and Lewin’s honeyeater) find the berries attractive and I’m sure they are responsible for the seed dispersal. When we eventually start clearing the lantana in a few years time, I’m hoping that dense thickets like this one will provide a suitable habitat for small birds such as fairy-wrens and scrub wrens. (July 2011)

I’ve added this species to our list of native plants growing in the reserve. It is a small shrub growing to about 2 metres. The stems are covered in hairs and numerous thin sharp prickles about 10 mm long. While the plant in flower is only sparsely covered in prickles another plant I found is smothered in prickles. The small flowers are about 10 mm across. It produces small bright red berries to about 9 mm in diameter which, like most species of Solanum, are poisonous. (July 2007)