Solanum Giganteum

African Holly

Solanum giganteum

Solanum giganteum is a somewhat unconventional choice – but not for birds!

Do not confuse it with the invasive alien Solanum mauritianum; although it is of the same family, it belongs here and is of great value to wildlife. Somewhat tatty and spiny, the perfect place for this shrub is at the back of a bed where it can best show off its luminous red fruits.

Solanum Giganteum is so useful because it bears its fruit in huge upright bunches which ripen in succession over many months – a smorgasbord indeed! In my garden it took some time before the word (chirp?) got out that the fruits were tasty and now there is a constant procession and fluttering around the plants.

They are not long lived, only a few years, but they will self seed over the garden. They rarely grow bigger than 3 m and do best on the sunny edges of tree clumps. They occur over much of the country on forest edges and clearings. Unlike its weedy cousin, bugweed, no part of this plant is poisonous, in fact it’s quite the opposite as its leaves and fruits are used for a healing ointment. Other common names are Healing-leaf tree or Red Bitter-apple.

The Gardener