The Nightshade botanical family Solanaceae

The Nightshade plant family (Solanaceae Pers.), containing 90 genera and more than 2000 species distributed in all continents, particularly is abundant in alkaloids (Table 7). The plant species belonging to this family grow especially in the tropics and sub-tropics. However, the majority of the species occur in Central and South America. The L-ornithine (Figures 11 and 15) derived alkaloids occur in many species of this family. Hyoscyamine and hyoscine and cuscohygrine are in the genus Nightshade (Atropa L.). This genus is distributed in large areas from the Mediterranean to central Asia and the Himalayas. Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna L.) is a typical species containing tropan alkaloids107. Moreover, the genus Jimsweed (otherwise known as Thornapple) (Datura L.), from tropical and warm temperate regions, and the genus Pitura plants (Deboisia L.), native to Australia and New Caledonia, also contain these compounds. Further, rich in the above-mentioned L-ornithine-derived alkaloids are also the genus of Henbane plants (Hyoscyamus L.) occurring in Europe and North America, as well as the large area from northern Africa to central Asia. The black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger L.) is a good example of this alkaloid-containing genus, but there are many more genera with the ability to yield these alkaloids. The genera of Mandrake plants (Mandragora L.) and Scopolia plants (Scopolia L.) may be

Table 7 General botanical characteristics of the Nightshade family312,313,316,318

Botanical Forms and Parts


Botanical forms

Some typical genera

Special characteristics



Fruits Seeds

Herbs Shrubs Small trees Vines














Sometimes climbing Hairs

Alternate Exstipulate

Regular or slightly irregular with tabular calyx

Corola rotate



Berry or capsule

Many seeded


Embryo straight or curved

L-ornithine L-nicotinic acid

Figure 15. L-ornithine and L-nicotinic acids are precursors of some alkaloids in the Nightshade family.

L-ornithine L-nicotinic acid

Figure 15. L-ornithine and L-nicotinic acids are precursors of some alkaloids in the Nightshade family.

mentioned in this context. However, the Nightshade plant family (Solanaceae) also contains other alkaloids, such as the compounds derived from Nicotinic acid (Figure 15). The Tobacco plant genus (Nicotiana L.), with approximately 45 species native to the North and South Americas and 21 species native to Australia and Polynesia, contains such alkaloids as nicotine and anabasine. Moreover, phenylalanine-derived alkaloids are also characteristic of the Nightshade plant family (Solaneceae). Capsaicin is a typical alkaloid of the paprika plant genus (Capsicum L.), which has approximately 50 species native to Central and South America. Steroidial alkaloids, such as solanidine, are very common in the potato plant genus (Solanum L.), with more than 1500 species distributed throughout the tropical, sub-tropical and temperate zones of the Globe. Certainly, the plant species belonging to the genus Solanum L. are endemic only in South America. Solanum lycocarpum St. Hill is an invasive and native shrub in Brazilian savanna. It is well known that this plant contains solamargine and solasodine, present in the unripe fruits108. Especially, steroid alkaloid solasodine may penetrate in animal body (experiments with rats), the placental and hematoencephalical barriers and impact the foetuses. According to Schwarz et al.108 S. lycocarpum fruit may act as phytohormones, promoting perhaps some neural alterations that at adult age may impair the sexual behaviour of the experimental female without impairing the fertility and sexual hormone synthesis. Another steroid alkaloid is tomatine, characteristic of the Tomato plant genus (Lycopersicon L.), with 7 species, and native to the Pacific coast of South America.

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