Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
a family of dicotyledonous plants, including herbs and a few shrubs, lianas, and small trees (in the tropics). The leaves are alternate and exstipulate, and the bisexual flowers are solitary or in cymose inflorescences. The calyx generally is five-lobed or five-parted, and the corolla has five lobes. There usually are five stamens. The fruit is a berry or capsule; less commonly, it is drupaceous.
There are between 80 and 90 genera, with about 2,500 species, distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions. Most are encountered mainly in Central and South America. The USSR has ten wild genera, embracing approximately 45 species. The most important genera are Solarium, Lycopersicum, Nicotiana, Mandragora, and Lycium. The family Solanaceae includes such important cultivated plants as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tobacco, and wild tobacco. (All these plants are native to the Americas.) Many species, including belladonna, Scopelia, henbane, and jimsonweed, yield alkaloids and other substances that are widely used in medicine. Ornamentals include petunia, tobacco, salpiglossis, certain nightshades, and physalis.