Solanum mauritianum (SOLANACEAE) Wild Tobacco

Weeds to Whack

Solanum mauritianum is a small tree or shrub native to South America (Uruguay and south-eastern Brazil) and an invasive weed in some other places. Common names include woolly nightshade, earleaf nightshade, flannel weed, bugweed, tobacco weed, and kerosene plant (Wikipedia). It is a straggly evergreen shrub or small tree to about 4 m high. Large grey-green leaves, purple flowers followed by clusters of large (to 2 cm) berries ripening from green to yellow. All parts of the plant are covered in velvety hairs. Crushed leaves have a strong smell of diesel fuel. The plant has a life of up to thirty years, and can grow up to 10 m tall. Large oval leaves are grey-green in color and covered with felt-like hairs.
Photo: Robert Whyte

Foliage and Flower

Flower is purple with a yellow centre. The plant can flower year round but fruiting occurs in late spring to early summer. It is tolerant of many soil types and quickly becomes established around plantations, forest margins, scrub and open land. In its native habitat, this is a favoured food plant of the Olive Pigeon Columba arquatrix. It has the ability to crowd out native plants if growing densely. All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans, especially the berries. This plant is dispersed by birds, with the fruit being especially favoured by some species, e.g., fruit doves.

Photo: Robert Whyte