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Native Tomato

Solanum ellipticum

Native Tomato
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Native Tomato • Solanum ellipticum
The Native Tomato, also known as the Potato Bush or Wild Gooseberry (Solanum ellipticum) is widespread throughout Central Australia, providing an abundance of fruit when conditions are suitable. Its flower is less star-shape then that of the S. centrale, the leaves are a velvety grey or blush-green, whilst the stems has spiny hairs.

The fruit is green with purplish stripes, becoming pale yellow when ripe. Also features significantly in Aboriginal mythology and culture.

Other species that may be referred to as bush tomatoes include:

Care should be taken when identifying the native tomato in the wild as there are a number of closely related species, that are similar in appearance, but are toxic.

A drought resistant plant, it occurs throughout Central Australia, being most common on foothills and the lower hill slopes.

If you are not an expert at identifying the plant, ‘DO NOT’ eat the fruit, as some Solanum species that look similar, are toxic.

In the Solanum centrale, the unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine (the same as that found in green potatoes) and must be fully ripened before consumption.

There are many other Solanum species that resemble Solanum centrale, and only some of them produce edible fruit eg Solanum chippendalei and Solanum ellipticum. Some closely related species produce fruit that are toxic.
Language Common name Where Found
English Native Tomato, Potato Bush, Wild Gooseberry Occurs naturally in Central Australia (South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory).
Arrernte Alperrantyeye
Pintupi and Warlpiri wangki
Pitjantjatjara kulypurpa, tawal-tawalpa, wanki, yuralpa
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Solanum
Species: S. ellipticum
Binomial name: Solanum ellipticum

Native Tomato • Images

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum), Central Australia

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum)

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum)

Native Tomato (Solanum ellipticum)

Bush Tomato - Other links

Bushfires and Bushtucker Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia • Author: Peter Latz
Desert Knowledge CRC
• Bush Resources: Opportunities for Aboriginal Enterprise in Central Australia (PDF 1.63 Mb) (A joint project between the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre and the Central Land Council), October 2005
Primary Industries and Resources SA
• Fact sheet No 8/03 (PDF 79 Kb)
Wikipedia • Australian desert raisin
Wikipedia • Solanum
Wildflowers and Plants of Inland Australia • Author: Anne Urban
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