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Family Solanaceae, composed of at least 2,500 species of flowering plants in 102 genera. Though found worldwide, the nightshades are most abundant in tropical Latin America. Many are economically important as food or medicinal plants. Among the most important are the potato, eggplant, tomato, garden pepper, tobacco, and many garden ornamentals, including the petunia. The medicinally significant nightshades are potent sources of such alkaloids as nicotine, atropine, and scopolamine; they include deadly nightshade (belladonna), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), henbane, and mandrake. The genus Solanum contains almost half the species in the family. The species usually called nightshade in North America and England is S. dulcamara, also called bittersweet and woody nightshade.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on nightshade family, visit Britannica.com.
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