Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kangaroo Apple

Solanum aviculare
These pretty plants are flowering and fruiting around the district now. They are familiar in our local national parks, where they grow on red soil, and on hillside black soil. It is seen at left in the Bunya Mountains...

...and at right in Goomburra National Park.

For several months in spring and early summer, it produces generous quantities of these attractive flowers.

Gardeners who grow potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants or chillies will be able to see, from the flowers, that this is a related plant.

Like those familiar food plants, the leaves and unripe fruits of kangaroo apple are poisonous. It is farmed in several countries of the world, to produce a drug, used in the manufacture of oral contraceptives, which is extracted from the young leaves and green fruits.

Solanum aviculare is native in New Zealand as well, and Maoris (who call it poroporo) cultivate it for the edible fruit. It should only be eaten when it is very ripe.

Aborigines traditionally burned off the outer skins, before they ate them.
This plant has potential as a garden ornamental. It is a fast-growing shrub, with large plants reaching 3m high, and is unlikely to live for much longer than five years. The leaves of young plants have large lobes on them, which disappear as the plants mature. It is useful as an ornamental filler in gardens, positioned between slower-growing, long-lived plants. It is also used as a rootstock for grafting eggplant.
New plants are easily grown from seed or cuttings
Kangaroo apple is moderately drought and frost hardy. It needs a sheltered site, and grows in full or part sun.


Barnesy said...

After we saw bowerbirds feeding on them near the ranger station at the Bunya Mts, we planted several in our garden at Maleny. This year we have had Green Catbirds, Satin and Regent Bowerbirds feeding on them. given a bit of extra water they fuit very profusely in their first year and can attract many species of furit eating bird.

Patricia Gardner said...

Thank you for this comment. It is interesting to have a record of which birds eat what. I had no idea that the plant had such bird-appeal!
You are lucky to be able to attract those birds to your garden. I'd love to be able to do the same, but live too far from the places where they live.

Patricia Gardner said...

Anonymous Pamela McCullagh said...

Hello, Yes I have planted a Kangaroo Apple - 12 months ago - as a filler plant while some gum trees started growing, in a damp area in our garden. I live in Bowral NSW and it had been growing beautifully but unfortunately after all the rain we have had, it had been sitting in water for some time and now is definitely dying! I am going to try cutting it back and see what happens. I'm quite aware of having the plant in the garden but I must say it had been looking wonderful! Pam

Hi Pam.
Yes, they do prefer their soil well-drained.
With a short-lived plant like this, it is a good to grow a few new plants from seed while the parent is still healthy. We tend to be so used to the "one-of-each-plant" style of gardening that we often overlook the very pleasing effect that comes from repeating the better plants in several places, or even just grouping them. Most gardens have room for more than one of these slender plants.