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ASBS Newsletter – Book Review

Black nightshades: Solanum nigrum L. and related species.

written by J.M. Edmonds & J.A. Chweya

(From ASBS Newsletter Number 92, September 1997)

Publisher: IPGRI (Int. Plant Genet. Res. Inst.) Handbook No. 15, Rome, 1997, 113 pp. (paper cover).
Price not indicated.

Nightshades are with us all. This must be amongst the most widespread cluster of species in the world. From cool temperate areas to the tropics wherever man disturbs the landscape nightshades seem to follow. In Australia we know them as weeds with a reputation for toxicity which may be exaggerated. It will surprise many to know that they are minor food plants used in the Pacific, Asia and widely in Africa and to a lesser extent the Americas. No cultivars have yet been developed through conventional plant breeding methods, but local variants have been selected in some areas.

Because of their widespread use IPGRI have produced this handbook in their series on under utilised and neglected crops. They could not have chosen a better author than J.M. Edmonds who has an enviable record of research in these species. She writes authoritatively, simply, no jargon, no beating about the bush. What is known is stated and what is unknown or needs research is not glossed over. The principal chapters deal with taxonomy, origins, properties, genetic resources, breeding, ecology and agronomy, potential, limitations and research requirements. There are over 200 references, a substantial list of research contacts and of available gene banks. There is a key to species commonly found in Eurasia and many illustrations.

Dr Edmonds stresses that this is not a taxonomic monograph. It is true the emphasis is on Eurasia and Africa and that the Americas get less attention yet anyone having to deal with these species will find this a comprehensive, inherently sensible, up-to-date reference to these ubiquitous plants.

Reviewer: David E. Symon