Herb: Kangaroo Apple

Latin name: Solanum aviculare

Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)

Medicinal use of Kangaroo Apple:

A source of steroids, much used in the pharmaceutical industry. The unripe berries are the richest source.

Description of the plant:


180 cm
(6 feet)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Coastal and lowland forest margins and shrubland on North South and Chatham Islands in New Zealand.

Edible parts of Kangaroo Apple:

Fruit - raw or cooked. It must be thoroughly ripe because the unripe fruit is poisonous. It can be used as a sweet fruit or as a vegetable. Best harvested once it has fallen from the plant, the fruit will then have lost its unpleasant acidity. It tastes much worse than it looks, the fruit is sickly sweet and often bitter. The quality varies from plant to plant and even from year to year from the same plant. The fruit is up to 2cm long and contains a large number of flat seeds.

Other uses of the herb:

In warmer climates than Britain this plant is often used as a hedge.

Propagation of Kangaroo Apple:

Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse. Germinates in 2 - 3 weeks at 20C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing the plants as annuals, plant them out after the last expected frosts and give them some protection such as a cloche until they are growing well. If growing as a perennial, especially in areas at the limits of its cold-hardiness, it will probably be better to grow the plants on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Give them fairly large pots (12cm or larger) because they have very strong root growth. Top growth might die back over winter, but the roots should survive if temperatures in the greenhouse do not fall below about -5C. Plant them out in early summer of the following year. The plants will be somewhat hardier in their second winter. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Very easy, the cuttings root within a couple of weeks. Pot them up in fairly large pots and overwinter them in the greenhouse before planting out in early summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Coastal and lowland forest margins and shrubland on North South and Chatham Islands in New Zealand.

Known hazards of Solanum aviculare:

All green parts of the plant are poisonous and so is the unripe fruit.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.