Solanum melongena (aubergine)

The cultivated eggplant or aubergine, Solanum melongena, is cultivated world wide for its fruits which are used in cooking.

Aubergines are native to southeast Asia, but were brought to Europe sometime in the 1500s, where they eventually became popular and were exported around the world (Eu-Sol: Eggplant history).

The name by which the aubergine is known in the United States is eggplant, thought to come from old white fruited varieties where the fruit is egg-shaped.

Species detail

In tropical areas aubergines grow as perennial shrubs and can be up to about a metre or more high, but in the temperate zone they are annuals, and die back in winter unless grown in a greenhouse.

Plant breeders select different fruit shapes and colours and cross the plants to create the many cultivated types we grow in our gardens.

  • Solanum melongena flower.
    Taxonomy

    The wild relatives of Solanum melongena have stem prickles, however cultivated varieties lack these prickles thanks to the selection process by humans. Find out more about the taxonomy of the aubergine.

  • Solanum melongena
    Distribution

    Find out where the aubergine is thought to have originated from and the areas that produce the majority of the world's aurbergine supply.

  • Solanum melongena
    Biology

    Learn about the unsusual flowers of Solanum melongena and the different colours of the aubergine fruit.

  • Solanum melongena
    Pollination

    Discover the process by which bees pollinate Solanum melongena.

  • Solanum melongena
    Conservation

    While Solanum melongena is not a threatened species, there is concern over its conservation. Discover more about the conservation status of the aubergine.

  • Solanum melongena at a market
    References

    Get reference material for Solanum melongena.

Images

Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Most Solanum melongena, aubergines, have purple or purplish green fruit, but the fruits can also be yellow, orange, red or white.

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

© S Knapp
Aubergines

Aubergines being sold from a market stall

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena flowers are either white or purple and have at their centre a bottle-shaped cone of stamens where pollen is held.

© S Knapp
Aubergine purplish green fruit

Most types of aubergine have purple or purplish green fruit.

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena aubergines in a meal.

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena aubergines.

© S Knapp
Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

Solanum melongena

© S Knapp

About the author

Sandy Knapp
Dr Sandra Knapp

Merit researcher in botany, focussing on the taxonomy of the nightshade family Solanaceae.