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Solanaceae: what they are and examples

The Solanaceae family is one of the largest and most widespread plant families throughout our planet. More than 2,500 species belonging to this very particular family have been discovered and are capable of influencing our lives in very different ways. And, although the list of nightshades includes some of the most toxic and poisonous plants on the planet, we also want to show you which vegetables belong to the nightshade family. Yes, as you just read. Many of the vegetables that we eat every day and most frequently are nightshade plants, such as potatoes or tomatoes. Also, as a curiosity, nightshades are known in English as “Nightshades” which can be translated as “shadows of the night” and which has a meaning linked to a historical past of humanity when many of them were used to perform rituals.

Thus, if you want to know what nightshades are and examples of them , we invite you to continue reading a little more to learn more about them and, incidentally, review the types of nightshades you already know and discover some new ones. Right at the end of this text you will find a list with several examples of edible nightshades and toxic nightshades that we will group together so that it is even easier for you to know their main characteristics.

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Index
  1. What are nightshades
  2. Solanaceae characteristics
  3. Examples of nightshades

What are nightshades

Solanaceae plants are a family found within the angiosperms . These, in general, are usually either herbaceous or shrubby. Grouped in approximately 95 genera, more than 2,500 different species of this very particular family have been discovered . In addition, Solanaceae have a wide distribution, both in tropical and warm regions as well as in temperate and cold regions. However, most are grouped in the American continent and a few others in the area of ​​Eurasia, Africa and Australia.

These plants, due to their wide variety, can be annual, biennial or perennial. Another common trait is that they tend to have mostly underground tubers . However, the most characteristic part of this family is its high content of its own alkaloids that are harmful to health if they are at high levels.

However, the vast majority of nightshades are used for their multiple uses, some even pharmaceuticals. The economic importance of these plants worldwide is triggered when we think of eliminating foods such as potatoes, tomatoes or peppers from our diet. And in the same way, in some cases, stop producing cigarettes despite the contraindications to their consumption, since the tobacco plant is another belonging to this family.

Finally, we also want to highlight some plants of this family that, despite not having these striking fruits, are highly valued for their beauty, such as petunias. And it is that all Solanaceae offer a gift in sight in their flowering season. So for all this, whether when you see them in your garden, your garden or inside your home, remember the importance of this family that lives with you in your day-to-day life.

Solanaceae characteristics

These are the main characteristics of nightshade plants :

  • The leaves of most nightshade plants are simple and arranged alternately on the stem. In addition, they usually have lobed margins and in many cases with spines.
  • Solanaceae are hermaphrodite plants that present both actinomorphic and zygomorphic flowers, which are generally arranged solitary in some specific species in the form of inflorescences , both axillary and terminal. The shape of these is usually campanulate.
  • As for its fruits, they are usually berries or drupes .
  • The seeds are dicotyledonous with a straight or curved embryo. Furthermore, in most of the species belonging to this family they are polyploid.
  • Its chemical composition includes alkaloids, such as atropine, hyoscyamine or nicotine, common in many toxic species within the Solanaceae family.
  • Solanaceae also contain other substances, such as capsaicin, an oleoresin that usually causes a mild irritating effect and has a spicy taste, as in the case of chili.
  • Finally, they have solanine. This toxic and bitter-tasting glycoalkaloid is found naturally in the leaves, fruits, and tubers of some edible nightshades. Hence, it is not advisable to eat these vegetables if we see that after removing the skin, the remaining layer is greenish. It can cause stomach problems and other serious symptoms to our body.

Examples of nightshades

To finish talking about these types of plants, here are several examples of nightshade plants :

List of edible nightshade plants

  • Tomate (Solanum licopersicum)
  • Berenjena (Solanum melongena)
  • Chile (Capsicum frutescens)
  • Pimiento (potato)
  • Patata (Solanum tuberosum)
  • Bayas de Goji (Lycium barbarum)

List of toxic nightshades

  • Tabaco (Nicotiana tabacum)
  • Devil’s Grapes (Solanum dulcamara)
  • Belladona (Atropa belladona)
  • Estramonio (Datura stramonium)
  • Mandrágora (Mandragora autumnalis)
  • Beleño (Hyoscyamus niger)

Other plants of the nightshade family

  • Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia x candida)
  • Paraguayan jasmine (Lycianthes rantonnetii)
  • Wild tobacco (Nicotiana glauca)
  • Tabaquillo (Solanum mauritianum)
  • Petunia (Petunia × atkinsiana)
  • Mullaca (Physalis angulata)

Below you can see pictures of the nightshade plants in the order of these lists.

If you want to read more articles similar to Solanaceae: what they are and examples , we recommend that you enter our Biology category .

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Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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