- Nightshade serves as the general name for an extended genus of remarkable flowering plants. Currently, more than 2,700 known species exist within this large family.
- Many have important uses as ornamental plants, spices, and medicinal plants. Yet the genus remains best known for the fact that some of the varieties evolved to be extremely toxic. This often leads to the mistaken belief that all plants bearing the name are toxic.
- Also known as Solanaceae, many types of Nightshade serve as commonly grown crops for agriculture. These include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and tobacco. It also includes flowers such as the petunia.
Nightshade Physical Characteristics
Nightshade often presents in many different forms, and each has its own specific physical traits. It appears as either upright plants or ground-hugging foliage.
Some species of Nightshade also produce tubers. The leaves of the various types may be either leathery, herbaceous, or even with spines.
The flowers of most species develop as hermaphroditic in nature, however, some are monoecious or dioecious. The flowers may be either individual or in large groups.
The fruit takes a variety of forms, depending upon the species. Most commonly, the fruit develops in the form of a small berry.
Nightshade Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Nightshade occurs either as an annual or perennial herb, and can also be a vine, liana, shrub, tree, or epiphytic. Many of these also comprise important agricultural crops.
Given the great diversity between the various members of the Nightshade genus, its members inhabit a wide range of habitat types.