Cook Islands Biodiversity & Natural Heritage

Solanum americanum


Small-flower Nightshade

Multimedia & Additional Resources

Type Description Download
Open this image in pop-up window Image: Leaves, flowers and fruit 43KB
Open this image in pop-up window Image: compare Solanum nigrum (NZ) 85KB
Open this image in pop-up window Image: ?Solanum forsteri (Gambier Group) 51KB

General Information

COMMON NAMES: Small-flower Nightshade, American nightshade, Common Night-shade, Glossy Nightshade

TRADITIONAL NAMES: Poroporo (RR MG AK), Poro Puaka (AT MT), Poroporo Puaka (MK), Blackberry (PL), Akari Pipiro? (RK); Other Polynesian - Boro (FJ), Māgalo / Polo (SAM), Polo Kai (TON), Pōpolo (HAW), Pōporo (RNUI)

GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION: NATIVE Americas, but probably native circumtropical, including most of Polynesia; s. to South Is. (NZ) and Argentina

COOK ISLANDS STATUS: Indigenous or Introduced - Polynesian, Naturalised; S.Group - widespread; N.Group - ?Rakahanga only; Land, lowlands

SIGNIFICANCE LIST: Medicine, vegetable (+1); Weed - minor

KEY FEATURES: Bushy herb or short-lived perennial, to 1m. LEAVES opposite, obovate, to 10x6cm, base obtuse then tapering on stalk, tip ~acute, edge smooth with a few low, round teeth; stalk to 5cm. FLOWERS small cluster on stalks fusing to main stalk at one point (=umbel pattern); 5-8mmØ; petals 5, white, lance-like; anthers yellow, to 2mmL. FRUIT (=berry) round, 8mmØ, glossy black, with strongly recurved calyx lobes at base, edible.

SIMILAR SPECIES: Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum, not recorded in the Cook Islands) has larger flowers 8-13mmØ (vs. 5-8mmØ); fruit dull black (vs. glossy black); fruiting calyx slightly recurved (vs. very strongly recurved); and flower stalklets NOT emerging at a point (vs. emerging at a point). Solanum nigrum is native Mediterraneum to ?India and Africa, and introduced elsewhere, including N.America, Australia, NZ, and some Pacific Islands.

Enlarged Image of 'Solanum americanum'

Cook Islands Distribution

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Southern Group: Present    Makatea: Present

Northern Group: Present

Key to Symbols

Scientific Taxonomy

Solanum americanum Mill.
SYNONYMS: Solanum americanum nutans; Solanum nigrum Linnaeus [mistaken, authors incl. GW]; Solanum oleraceum [mistaken TC]; Solanum nodiflorum Jacq.; Solanum nodiflorum nutans R.J.Henderson; Solanum forsteri Seem. [mistaken]


More Information

POSITIVE SIGNIFICANCE: Medicine, vegetable (+1). Comments: Cheeseman (1903) noted that this plant was often planted near dwellings and used as a potherb (=cooked vegetable), and the leaves are still sometimes cooked. Fruits are eaten raw in, at least, Hawaii, Peru and Bolivia.
NEGATIVE SIGNIFICANCE: Weed - minor. Comments: A minor weed in gardens.

GENERAL NOTE: Cheeseman (1903) noted Solanum americanum (as Solanum oleraceum) in waste areas and often planted near dwellings and used as a potherb, it is not clear if he considered it Native or Polynesian Introduced (it is not in his list of such plants, but neither are Solanum repandum or Solanum uporo, which were Polynesian Introduced). Solanum americanum was first collected in Hawaii in 1835 and claimed by Hillebrand (1888) as indigenous, and Allen (1981) found seeds in an archaeological site adze quarry that was abandoned before Cook's arrival [Wagner]. Whistler (1994, Wayside Plants of the Islands) says "apparently a native species of the Pacific Islands, although it probably originated somewhere in tropical America." The Forsters on Rapanui with Captain Cook collected Solanum nigrum?, later Solanum forsteri Seem., which recently has considered a synonym of Solanum americanum. However, this plant is now likely to be a valid species as Solanum forsteri, including Solanum insulae-paschalis as a synonym, with a distribution Juan Fernandez, Easter Island, Tahiti and Society Islands [email J.Edmonds, 2006/Jan]. Although thought to be extinct this plant was rediscovered in the wild on Rapanui in 2005 by C.Cristino [email C.Cristino, 2006-03]

Vouchers & References

None Recorded.

p.1268 Wagner et al.- Flowering Plants of Hawaii
p.744 Neal - In Gardens of Hawaii
p.5/012 A.C.Smith - Flora Vitiensis Nova
p.289 N Cheeseman - Flora of Rarotonga
p.96 Wilder - Flora of Rarotonga
p.393a Whistler - Ethnobotany of the Cook Islands

Data Update History (information):
zTX, zB02, zM02, zupM06a

Web Resources

Citation Information

McCormack, Gerald (2007) Cook Islands Biodiversity Database, Version 2007.2. Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust, Rarotonga. Online at Copy citation to system clipboard
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