Solanaceae is a family of flowering plants that contains a number of important agricultural plants as well as many toxic plants. The name of the family comes from the Latin Solanum "the nightshade plant", but the further etymology of that word is unclear. Most likely, the name comes from the perceived resemblance that some of the flowers bear to the sun and its rays, and in fact a species of Solanum (Solanum nigrum) is known as the sunberry. Alternatively, it has been suggested the name originates from the Latin verb solari, meaning "to soothe". This presumably refers to alleged soothing pharmacological properties of some of the psychoactive species of the family.
The family is also informally known as the nightshade- or potato family. The family includes Datura (Jimson weed), Mandragora (mandrake), belladonna (deadly nightshade), Capsicum (paprika, chili pepper), Solanum (potato, tomato, aubergine or eggplant), Nicotiana (tobacco), and Petunia (petunia). With the exception of tobacco (Nicotianoideae) and petunia (Petunioideae) most of the economically-important genera are contained in the sub-family Solanoideae.
The Solanaceae family is characteristically ethnobotanical, that is, extensively utilized by humans. It is an important source of food, spice and medicine. However, Solanaceae species are often rich in alkaloids whose toxicity to humans and animals ranges from mildly irritating to fatal in small quantities.
Flowers are typically conical or funnel in shape, with five petals, usually fused. The leaves are alternate, often with a hairy or clammy surface. Solanaceous plants produce a fruit that is either a berry, as in the case of the tomato or wolfberry, or is a dehiscent capsule (breaks open upon drying, or dehiscing, releasing the seeds) as in the case of Datura. The seeds are usually round and flat, being 2–4 millimetres (0.079–0.16 in) in diameter. The stamens are usually present in multiples of four (most commonly four or eight). The ovaries are superior. The hypogynus gynoecium is a syncarp located obliquely in relation to the median.
See Also: Sydney florist, Melbourne florist, Brisbane florist
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