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Eggplant Solanum melongena

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
so-LAN-num mel-ON-gen-uh
This plant has high severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Eggplant is an annual or short-lived perennial plant that is very sensitive to cold temperatures. It grows fastest when the temperature ranges between 70 and 85 degrees. It produces an edible shiny glossy fruit. The plant may grow 2 to 4 feet tall and is multi-branched. The leaves and stems have star-shaped hairs, and the small violet flowers are also star-shaped. Eggplant or Aubergine is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.  It is grown primarily as a food crop.

This species is native to South Central China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The plant is grown as a perennial in South Asia. It is now cultivated worldwide. In North Carolina, eggplant is considered an annual. 

The genus name, Solanum, is from the Latin word solamen, which means "comforting or soothing." The species name, melongena, references the fruits melon shape. Another source states that the species name, melongena, has origins from the Italian name "melanzane," which is derived from "mela insane" or "mad apple."

The eggplant grows best in full sun. It prefers moist, well-drained, fertile, sandy, and loamy soils with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.8. It is propagated by seeds and germination occurs in 8 -12 days. The fruits may be harvested in about 105-133 days. The plant's flowers attract bumblebees.

The leaves and stems are covered with star-shaped hairs and sometimes prickles. The flowers are solitary, star-shaped, and usually violet in color. The fruit is a large fleshy smooth berry. The fruit color varies from white, green, or purple to black depending on the cultivar. The fruit has many pale brown kidney-shaped seeds. 

If you consider growing eggplant in your vegetable garden, caution should be taken to protect children and pets.

The fruits and seeds are edible; however, the remainder of the plant is poisonous. The fruits should not be consumed raw. Preferably, they should be baked, stewed, or fried. The flowers, leaves, and roots of the plant are toxic and should not be consumed. They contain alkaloids that include solanine. Ingestion may cause throat burning, nausea, vomiting, and irregular heart rhythms which may be fatal.  

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Summer         Fruits:  Summer, Fall

Quick ID Hints:

  • star-shaped hair on the leaves and stems
  • star-shaped violet flowers
  • large fleshy, shiny, glossy fruits varying in color depending on the cultivar

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Flea beetles, tomato hornworms, Colorado potato beetles, and cutworms are potential pests. Verticillium wilt can occur. It is best prevented by planting disease-resistant cultivars and rotation of crops.

See this plant in the following landscapes:
Vegetable Garden- Raised Beds Vegetable Garden and Pollinator Plants
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Black Beauty'
    purple black fruit
  • 'Calliope'
    small, oval, white and purple streaked fruits
  • 'Casper'
    white fruits
  • 'Hansel'
    finger-length purple fruits
  • 'Kermit'
    small, round, greenish-white fruits
  • 'Machiaw'
    slender pale purple to deep pink fruits
  • 'Ping Tung Long'
    slender purple fruit up to 18 inches long and 2 inches wide
  • 'Rosa Bianca'
    plump white and lavender streaked fruit
  • 'Twinkle'
    oval, deep plum and cream-colored fruits
  • 'White Comet'
    ivory white teardrop-shaped
'Black Beauty', 'Calliope', 'Casper', 'Hansel', 'Kermit', 'Machiaw', 'Ping Tung Long', 'Rosa Bianca', 'Twinkle', 'White Comet'
Tags:
#cultivars#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#purple flowers#vegetable garden#edible fruits#hairy leaves#acidic soils tolerant#pollinator plant#purple fruits#warm season vegetable#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for children#problem for horses#cold intolerant#wilson mg plant sale 2021#early childhood
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Black Beauty'
    purple black fruit
  • 'Calliope'
    small, oval, white and purple streaked fruits
  • 'Casper'
    white fruits
  • 'Hansel'
    finger-length purple fruits
  • 'Kermit'
    small, round, greenish-white fruits
  • 'Machiaw'
    slender pale purple to deep pink fruits
  • 'Ping Tung Long'
    slender purple fruit up to 18 inches long and 2 inches wide
  • 'Rosa Bianca'
    plump white and lavender streaked fruit
  • 'Twinkle'
    oval, deep plum and cream-colored fruits
  • 'White Comet'
    ivory white teardrop-shaped
'Black Beauty', 'Calliope', 'Casper', 'Hansel', 'Kermit', 'Machiaw', 'Ping Tung Long', 'Rosa Bianca', 'Twinkle', 'White Comet'
Tags:
#cultivars#full sun tolerant#heat tolerant#purple flowers#vegetable garden#edible fruits#hairy leaves#acidic soils tolerant#pollinator plant#purple fruits#warm season vegetable#problem for cats#problem for dogs#bee friendly#problem for children#problem for horses#cold intolerant#wilson mg plant sale 2021#early childhood
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Solanum
    Species:
    melongena
    Family:
    Solanaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It has been used in traditional medicine and cultural ceremonies in several countries across the world. The eggplant has been used as a treatment for diabetes, cholera, bronchitis, dysentery, ear infections, toothache, and skin infections. Some countries believe the eggplant has a magical quality and symbolizes protection and good health.
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China South-Central, Laos, Malaya, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam
    Distribution:
    Introduced: Assam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Himalaya, India, Kazakhstan, Laccadive Island, Sri Lanka, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Zaire; Currently cultivated worldwide
    Wildlife Value:
    The flowers attract bumblebees.
    Edibility:
    The immature fruit is edible and best used in food preparation. As the fruit matures, it becomes stringy and bitter. The fruits are usually cooked and served as a vegetable. They may be prepared and eaten by frying, steaming, grilling, roasting, or stewing. They may also be stir-fried, pickled, stuffed, and fried with a light breading.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Vegetable
    Warm Season Vegetable
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Appendage:
    Prickles
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a, 12b, 12a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a berry that is egg-shaped, smooth and has glossy skin. The fruit may measure 4 to 8 inches long. It ranges in color from green to white, to purple-black when immature and when it should be eaten. As the fruit matures it gets stringy and bitter. Fruit contains numerous small, flat, pale yellow to brown seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Solitary
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are purple, funnel-shaped, and have 5-6 pointed lobes. The lobes make the flower appear star-shaped with a yellow center. The flowers usually bloom in clusters.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Lobed
    Sinuate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are bright green or purplish-tinged, simple, alternate, and ovate to oblong. They measure 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. The margins are entire or have 5-9 sinuate lobes. The leaves are covered with star-shaped hairs, and some have prickles. The petiole is 1 to 3 inches long.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Hairy (pubescent)
    Stem Description:
    The stems are covered with star-shaped hair and prickles are sometimes found. They become slightly woody as they mature.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heat
    Problems:
    Problem for Cats
    Problem for Children
    Problem for Dogs
    Problem for Horses
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    High
    Poison Symptoms:
    If the leaves, flowers, stems, or roots are ingested, throat burning, nausea, vomiting, and irregular heart rhythm can occur which may be fatal.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Alkaloids including solanine
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Flowers
    Leaves
    Roots
    Stems