Solanum cinereum: is a member of the Solanaceae family in company with the Potatoes and Tomatoes. There are 1500 Solanum species and of these 117 occur in Australia. Solanum cinereum occurs naturally at Yallaroo. It is an erect shrub reaching a height of one metre. The species will often sucker. Solanum cinereum is a very prickly shrub. Except for the petals and seeds every part of the plant is armed with sharp prickles. Purple-mauve flowers are a striking feature and flowering occurs for many months. Over the years we have ignored this plant (except when we accidentally brush against it). In December 2002 we purchased The Native Bees of the Sydney Region. This slim volume is packed with information about these interesting insects. Most species described are found along the east coast of Australia. We found that native bees are frequent visitors to Solanum cinereum. The anthers need to be vibrated to release their pollen and native bees have this capability. Introduced Honey Bees cannot collect the pollen. See Buzz Pollination in our Wildlife section.
Because of its native bee attracting capability we are now actively attempting to propagate Solanum cinereum. We are attempting seed propagation and also transplanting suckers. Because of the surfeit of prickles it is impossible to prepare cuttings.
Solanum cinereum is a widespread species. It is found in nearly all Botanical divisions in New South Wales as well as Queensland and Victoria. Solanum cinereum could be cultivated in a native shrubbery as long as it is not planted close to paths.
There are two reasons for cultivating this prickly customer. Firstly the blooms attract native bees and secondly the flowers are very attractive.