Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Poroporo

with 24 comments

Solanum aviculare Flower 5592

Solanum aviculare is native to New Zealand, where its Māori name is poroporo and its English one New Zealand nightshade. The plant also grows natively in Australia, where it’s quaintly known as kangaroo apple. I photographed this specimen not in Australia but at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington on February 20th.

By way of geographic comparison, let me add that Austin is home to several species of Solanum. The two most common with flowers similar to those of S. aviculare are S. elaeagnifolium and S. dimidiatum.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 6, 2015 at 5:16 AM

24 Responses

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  1. This plant has deadly charm.


    May 6, 2015 at 6:14 AM

    • And so do its equally poisonous Texas relatives. Along the lines of children falling into hot springs and mud pools, I wonder how many little children have eaten the small fruits of the nightshade plants and been poisoned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 6:40 AM

  2. Beautiful image. I saw a lot of this growing wild in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.


    May 6, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    • I don’t recall noticing any during the hour or two I spent in the Blue Mountains in 2005, but I’m glad to hear that you’ve seen them there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 6:43 AM

  3. Very nice rich colors in your photo. I believe I’ve seen the second one around here, not the first.

    Jim in IA

    May 6, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    • The New Zealand species had richer green foliage than I’m used to seeing in any Solanum in Texas, and that was almost more appealing to me than the flower.

      The USDA map shows Solanum dimidiatum in Illinois and Missouri, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for you to have seen some in Iowa.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 7:05 AM

  4. when i saw that lovely lavender/purple flower, i thought, ‘eggplant cousin-nightshade.’ and was pleased that the page and text loaded. it’s taken hours, but the comment part loaded!

    now i understand why /how you stumbled upon the naranjilla, which also has an interesting nightshade kind of flower, but wow, is it ever a fuzzy, prickly, stay back sort of plant! you’re right, i know it well, and it makes a very popular drink that’s greenish orange in color, not pretty but very unique in flavor.

    • And right you were about this being a cousin to the eggplant, and similarly about why I’d run across an online article on naranjilla, which is Solanum quitoense, the Solanum from Quito. I like your description of it as “a fuzzy, prickly, stay back sort of plant!” I read about the unique flavor of the drink made from it but have never had the chance to sample it.

      You have a lot of patience to wait hours for a web page to load, but I guess you don’t have any choice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 7:49 AM

  5. “Poroporo” made me smile. The boys’ secret society in Liberia is called Poro, and when bush school time came, I once heard the announcement made by someone coming through the village crying, “Poro! Poro!”

    I like repetitive words and phrases generally, and poroporo reminded me that I missed one for my one-stitch-at-a-time post: poco a poco.

    Poroporo-the-plant has an unusual look: heavy, stiff, almost embossed. The deeply veined leaves are so attractive. They remind me of a really well-done artificial plant — the sort that makes you back up and feel the leaves, just to be sure of what you’re looking at.


    May 6, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    • The Malayo-Polynesian languages that I’ve had any contact with seem quite fond of duplicated words. When I was looking up the Māori name for a plant or animal and found a long word, at least some of the time it would be made up of a first part, a second part, and then a repeat of the second part. Once I realized that, I could more easily say those long words.

      When I lived in Honduras I made up a rhyming Spanish adage to convey (loosely) the sentiment of “Slow and steady wins the race”: Poco a poco se alumbra el foco, Little by little the flashlight lights up. The fact that flashlights light up all at once didn’t deter me.

      I, too, like the look of the poroporo plant, but I don’t believe I ever touched the leaves to see what texture they have. So much to do, so little time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 3:00 PM

  6. Ah, now I know the name of this. Lovely photo.

    Raewyn's Photos

    May 6, 2015 at 3:13 PM

  7. Such a tiny flower in comparison to the foliage. It is so dainty and quite lovely. The leaf to bloom comparison reminds me of our starflower.

    Steve Gingold

    May 6, 2015 at 5:59 PM

    • Now that I look back at your linked post I remember how much I liked those starflowers.

      Because I’m not familiar with the poroporo, I don’t know if the small flower I photographed ever got any larger or opened any further.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 6:39 PM

  8. That flower does remind me of the nightshade we get here, but it may well be I’m dreaming! Certainly the leaves are totally different!

    Susan Scheid

    May 6, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    • There are so many species in the genus Solanum that most regions probably have at least one; as a result, I’m not surprised that you’d see a family resemblance, even if the leaves are different (as the poroporo’s leaves are different from all of the Solanum species in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 6, 2015 at 6:50 PM

  9. Hi Steve,
    As soon as I saw this flower it reminded me of a plant I’ve seen here – Solanum ellipticum – which is commonly called “bush tomato.” I believe there may be varieties called bush potato as well. Some are edible here while others are poisonous. As you can see though, the leaves are quite different to the Solanum in your beautiful picture. http://www.travelling-australia.info/CollASprings/APics2C.html


    May 7, 2015 at 12:35 AM

    • Thanks for the introduction to Solanum ellipticum. The species name seems to correspond to the shape of the plant’s leaves, which have roughly the color of those of the two Austin species but appear to be fuzzier. If I’d been lost in the wild I wouldn’t have dared eat this; as you said, and as your linked article notes: “There are many closely related species with very similar flowers but different leaves and fruit. Some are favourite bush-tucker, others are poisonous.”

      By context I can understand bush tucker, but the phrase is new to me. I looked up tucker by itself and the first thing I found was this: “a piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of a bodice or as an insert at the front of a low-cut dress.” Hmm. In another dictionary I found the definition “one who tucks.” Finally I found the right one: “chiefly Australian: food.” If I’d had to do any further looking I might have gotten all tuckered out. (If you’re not familiar with that Americanism, it means ‘tired out, exhausted.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 7, 2015 at 2:29 AM

      • Heheh…that’s why I didn’t write “bush tucker” in my comment! I thought it may seem a little weird to you. However, you read it on the link anyway and now I know the other meaning of tucker. 🙂


        May 7, 2015 at 2:56 AM

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