Tomato bush (Solanum orbiculatum) in the Western Australian rangelands

Page last updated: Tuesday, 21 July 2020 - 3:44pm

Tomato bush (Solanum orbiculatum) is one of many plant species found in the Western Australian rangelands. This page provides a summary of the plant's value for pastoralism. Pastoral lessees and station managers can use this information to assess pasture condition and trend.

Indicator value

Tomato bush is undesirable and indicates poor pasture condition where it dominates the pasture. It is an increaser under heavy grazing. Tomato bush is closely related to flannel bush (Solanum lasiophyllum), which is often found with tomato bush. Tomato bush is a more reliable indicator than flannel bush, because it lives longer.

Forage value

Tomato bush is only grazed occasionally by goats and by livestock confined for a period at watering points. 

Habitat

Sandy soils, mulga groves.

General description

Tomato bush is a rounded compact shrub that grows to 1–1.5m. Prominent curved or straight spines 8–10mm long are often present on the minor branches but rarely on the leaves. The leaves and young stems have a light covering of fine tiny hairs, which make it look silvery or rusty. The leaves are rounded or oval, 1.5–6cm long and 1.5–3.5cm wide, with short stalks. The flowers are about 2.5cm across with 5 separate narrow purple petals and 5 large yellow stamens in the middle. The mature fruit look like little round whitish-yellow tomatoes, 1–1.5cm across.

Contact information

Kath Ryan
+61 (0)8 9166 4015
Matthew Fletcher
+61 (0)8 9166 4019