Synonyms: Solanum laciniatum Aiton
Common Names :Kangaroo Apple, New Zealand nightshade
Solanum aviculare is an evergreen Shrub growing up to 4 metres tall. The leaves are, 8–30 cm long, lobed or entire, with any lobes being 1–10 cm long.
Its hermaphroditic (having both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to October, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October.
The flowers are white, mauve to blue-violet, 25–40 mm wide, and are followed by berries 10–15 mm wide that are poisonous while green, but edible once orange.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.
Succeeds in most fertile soils in a sunny position. Tolerates temperatures down to at least -7°c in Australian gardens but is not very hardy in Britain. It sometimes succeeds as a shrub outdoors in the mildest areas of the country but is more usually cut to the ground by winter cold. It can, however, be grown at the foot of a warm sunny wall and be treated as a herbaceous perennial. As long as the roots are given a good mulch in autumn they should survive quite cold winters. Alternatively, it is possible to grow the plant as an annual. If the seed is sown in early spring in a warm greenhouse and planted out after the last frosts it can fruit in its first year though yields will be lower than from plants grown as perennials. A very ornamental plant, it has been cultivated for its edible fruit by the New Zealand Maoris. It is a fast-growing but short-lived plant. There is much confusion between this species and S. laciniatum. Some botanists unite the two under S. aviculare whilst others say that S. laciniatum is a tetraploid form of this species. S. laciniatum is treated as a distinct species here.
Seed – sow spring in a warm greenhouse. Germinates in 2 – 3 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing the plants as annuals, plant them out after the last expected frosts and give them some protection such as a cloche until they are growing well. If growing as a perennial, especially in areas at the limits of its cold-hardiness, it will probably be better to grow the plants on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Give them fairly large pots (12cm or larger) because they have very strong root growth. Top growth might die back over winter, but the roots should survive if temperatures in the greenhouse do not fall below about -5°c. Plant them out in early summer of the following year. The plants will be somewhat hardier in their second winter. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very easy, the cuttings root within a couple of weeks. Pot them up in fairly large pots and overwinter them in the greenhouse before planting out in early summer.
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Fruit – raw or cooked. It must be thoroughly ripe because the unripe fruit is poisonous. It can be used as a sweet fruit or as a vegetable. Best harvested once it has fallen from the plant, the fruit will then have lost its unpleasant acidity. It tastes much worse than it looks, the fruit is sickly sweet and often bitter. The quality varies from plant to plant and even from year to year from the same plant The fruit is up to 2cm long and contains a large number of flat seeds.
A source of steroids, much used in the pharmaceutical industry. The unripe berries are the richest source.
Other Uses: in warmer climates than Britain this plant is often used as a hedge
Known Hazards: All green parts of the plant are poisonous and so is the unripe fruit.
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