Characteristics of Turkey Berry Plant (Solanum torvum) in the Wild

Solanum torvum
Turkey Berry or Prickly Nightshade is a thorny shrub that is used horticulturally as a rootstock for eggplant. This is done because the rootstock of this plant is very resistant to disease, allowing the eggplant to grow stronger and more fertile.

The turkey berry tree is native to Florida and southern Alabama. Due to its rapid spread and growth, in some areas, this plant is considered a weed.

It was first introduced and naturalized throughout tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands including Hawaii, Guam, and Samoa in America.

In Jamaica, the turkey berry plant is called Susumba or Gully beans and is usually cooked in a dish with salted fish and ackee. It is believed to be full of iron (turkey berries do have iron) and is consumed when a person is experiencing an iron deficiency.

Apart from its popular name, turkey berry also has world-recognized synonym names such as Prickly Nightshade, Shoo-shoo Bush, Wild Eggplant, Pea Eggplant, Pea Aubergine, Susumber, Suzume Nasu, Jurubeba, Ka Ran Sate Kay Thi, Eggplant, Tekokak, Takokak, and Rimbang.

Hindus believe that the turkey berry chants ‘Govinda-Govinda’ after being swallowed in one’s stomach for 15 days before digestion and contributes to overall well-being.

That said, turkey berries are also used in Haitian Voodoo rituals.

The turkey berry tree usually grows in the highlands where the annual rainfall is around 1,000-4,000 mm. It also grows in drier riparian zones. The tree can live in all types of moist and fertile soil at an altitude of 0-2,000 m above sea level.

However, turkey berry grows best in full sun and shades of shade or cool, but it cannot live in the shade of large trees such as in moist, covered forest.


Characteristics of Turkey Berry Leaf

Solanum torvum Leaf
Source : Khare

The leaves are opposite or one per node, ovate with curved edges. The petiole is 1-6 cm long and the blade is 7-18 cm in size which is covered with fine hairs.


Characteristics of Turkey Berry Flower

Solanum torvum Flower
Source : and Kim Starr

The flowers are white, tubular with 5 pointed lobes, and are grouped in cymbiform cymes.

Turkey berry flowers and bears fruit continuously without knowing the season when the tree is mature or with a height of about 1 to 1.5 meters.


Characteristics of Turkey Berry Fruit

Solanum torvum Fruit
Source : Worthington

Turkey berry fruit appears in clusters, is a small round, green in color, about 1 cm in diameter, and the fruit will turn yellow when ripe.


Characteristics of Turkey Berry Tree

Solanum torvum Tree
Source : and Kim Starr

The turkey berry tree grows in groups to a maximum height of 3 meters (rarely 5 meters). The branches are gray-green, prickly, and covered with fine hairs.

This plant often grows wild on the edge of rice fields, marshes, vacant land that is slightly damp, and on the edges of gutters.


Turkey berry contains several potentially pharmacologically active chemicals including steroids, sapogenins, and chlorogenin.

The turkey berry fruit extract is very deadly to mice, it exerts the effect of suppressing the number of erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets in their blood.

Turkey berry plant extracts are beneficial and have been used traditionally to treat hyperactivity, colds, coughs, acne, skin diseases, and leprosy.


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