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a genus of plants of the family Solanaceae. The plants are perennial and, less frequently, annual herbs, sub-shrubs, or shrubs with erect, climbing, or creeping stems. Some species are trees. The alternate or paired leaves are entire, lobed, or pinnate. The bisexual and usually regular pentamerous flowers are solitary or in inflorescences. The fruit is a two-celled berry with numerous seeds.
There are approximately 1,700 species of Solanum, distributed in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions. Most are found mainly in South America. The genus includes such important cultivated plants as the potato, the eggplant, and, according to some classifications, the tomato. The USSR has about 20 wild species. These include the bittersweet (S. dulcamara,) a climbing subshrub usually having lilac flowers and bright red berries. The plant is found throughout the European USSR and in the southern part of Western Siberia. It grows in moist thickets, forests, and ravines, as well as along shores. S. nigrum, an annual with white flowers and black or, occasionally, green berries, grows wild in gardens and near dwellings. Both the bittersweet and S. nigrum contain the poisonous alkaloid solanine, which is toxic to all agricultural animals. S. laciniatum, which is native to Australia, contains glycoalkaloids (solasonine) that are used to obtain the steroid hormones progesterone and cortisone used in medicine. It is cultuvated in Moldavia, Krasnodar Krai, the Crimea, and Kazakhstan as an annual plant. Many species, such as S. atropurpureum and S. marginatum, are grown as ornamental garden plants; others, including S. capsicastrum, are raised as greenhouse ornamentals.
T. V. EGOROVA