Solanum mammosum
Common Name: nipplefruit 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Solanaceae
Native Range: Tropical Americas
Zone: 11 to 12
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Purple with white petal stripes
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Thorns

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 11-12 where it is best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. This is a woody based perennial which is often grown as an annual because of its tendency to lose shape (become leggy) or simply die after fruiting. It is intolerant of frost.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Solanum mammosum, called nipple fruit, is native to South America. It is a woody based perennial that typically grows to 3' tall and features: (a) large, hairy, purple-veined, broad-ovate leaves (to 3-6" long) with toothed margins, (b) purple spring flowers (to 1 1/2" diameter) with a white stripe on each petal and yellow anthers, (c) bizarrely-shaped, bright yellow fruit (to 2" long) and (d) spiny stems. Each fruit typically develops a central lobe at the tip (resembling a nipple) and several small lobes at the base (resembling a cow's udder). Fruit is ornamentally attractive but toxic and poisonous to humans. Branches bearing fruit are often cut for indoor arrangements. Plant is typically grown as an ornamental for its unusual fruits. Has naturalized in parts of Central American and the Caribbean.

Genus name appears to come from the Latin word solamen meaning comfort, solace, or soothing in reference to the purported sedative and healing effects obtained from application of the leaves of some genus plants to cuts, wounds, inflammations or skin problems.

Specific epithet refers to the nipple-shaped fruit.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to fungal diseases including powdery mildew, rots and both early and late blight. Watch for aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and thrips.

Garden Uses

Bizarre ornamental fruit.