Edible Species Of Nightshades, Tomato, Potato, Eggplant And Peppers, Medicine, Tobacco
The family of plants known as nightshades is also known as the Solanacene. It is a large group of plants composed of more than 2,000 species and 75 different genera. Most nightshades are herbs, but some species are shrubs, vines, or trees. Most of the members of the nightshade family are native to parts of Central and South America, but about 100 nightshades can be found in North America.
Some species of nightshades are important sources of food, such as tomatoes, chili and bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant. A number of nightshade species have been used medicinally for thousands of years, and some species have narcotic and poisonous characteristics. Tobacco is a nightshade that has had a tremendous economic impact and has been a source of controversy since the early 1960s because of the link between smoking tobacco and several deadly diseases.
Other species in the nightshade family are grown as garden ornamentals. Well-known nightshade flowers include Browallia and Petunia, and the Chinese lantern is often found as an outdoor garden plant and sometimes as a potted house plant.
Some of the common characteristics of nightshades are alternating, simple leaves that are often hairy in texture and may have a strong odor. The size and shape of the leaves, however, vary greatly within the family. The flowers of these plants generally have a tubular shape, often with five petals attached, as in the petunia. The stamens of the flowers are connected at their base. When the ovary of the flower matures into a fruit, it is either fleshy like a tomato, or a dry fruit called a capsule, as in the tobacco plant.
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