Weeds in Australia


Solanum linnaeanum


Apple of Sodom (Solanum linnaeanum) is a spreading shrub that grows to around 1.4 m high and broad. The bright green leaves are 5-12.5 cm long, 2.8-8 cm wide and have 3-4 deep rounded lobes on each side of the midrib. The stems and leaves are very prickly, with the prickles being straight, broad at the base, and up to 13 mm long. Flowers are borne in clusters of 3-5 near the base of every second leaf. They are predominantly purple, but have yellow anthers (male parts of the flower), and the green calyx or cup at the base of the flower is prickly. The lowest one or two flowers in each cluster develop into fruits. The globular fruits are bright yellow when mature, 23-30 mm diameter, and are fleshy or juicy rather like a tomato. The seeds are brown to black (Bean 2004).

For further information or assistance with the identification of Apple of Sodom contact the herbarium in your state or territory.


Apple of Sodom is naturalised in coastal or near coastal areas of south-western Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland (Symon 1981).

Key points:

  • Apple of Sodom (Solanum linnaeanum) is a prickly shrub with purple flowers and yellow fruits.
  • It is found in coastal or near coastal areas of southern Australia (excluding Tasmania).
  • It can form dense swards in pasture or disturbed bushland.
  • It has limited dispersal potential by birds or mammals but can also spread by rhizomes.

How it spreads:

Apple of Sodom is dispersed by seed. Dispersal is often not rapid because very few animals eat the fruits and hence ingest the seeds. The species can also spread by rhizome (creeping underground stems) (Symon 1981; Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

Where it grows:

Apple of Sodom grows in areas receiving at least 500 mm rainfall per annum, with cool winters and hot summers. It prefers modified habitats where soil nutrients are moderate. It has become naturalised along roadsides, in urban bushland, waste areas and disturbed sites (Bean 2004). In Victoria it is confined to alkaline coastal sands and basaltic soils (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992).

Flower colour:Purple
Distribution map:

Purdie R.W., Symon D.E. & Haegi L. (1982). Solanaceae. In George, A.S. (ed) Flora of Australia 29. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. Victoria only: Victorian Resources Online (2007).


Apple of Sodom has impacts on both environment and agriculture. In grazing paddocks, the plant is avoided by stock, and hence gains a competitive advantage over other plants that are grazed. In this way, it proliferates. Dense infestations can restrict stock movements and harbour rabbits (Parsons & Cuthbertson 1992). It can compete strongly with native species, especially forbs and grasses (Carr et al. 1992).


Apple of Sodom originates from South Africa (Symon 1981; Bean 2004).


Apple of Sodom was first recorded as a weed at Port Jackson in 1801. Its mode of arrival is unrecorded, but was probably introduced by ships from South Africa, as a contaminant of ballast, hay or grain (Symon 1981).


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