Bugweed

Solanum mauritianum
Bugweed: Solanum mauritianum Bugweed: Solanum mauritianum

Common name:

Bugweed

Scientific name:

Solanum mauritianum (Solanaceae)

Alternative common names:

bugtree, flannel weed, woolly nightshade (English); luisboom, groot bitterappel (Afrikaans); uBhoqo, umbanga banga (isiZulu)

A shrub or small tree up to 4m high covered with whitish-felty hairs. Dull green leaves that are velvety above and white-felty beneath which emit a strong smell when bruised. Purple flowers in compact, terminal clusters on densely felty stalks up to 10cm long all year round. Spherical berries which start off green and turn yellow, in compact terminal clusters. Hairy leaves and stems are a respiratory tract and skin irritant. Unripe fruits are poisonous.

Additional Info

  • Where does this species come from?

    South America

    What is its invasive status in South Africa?

    Existing legislation: CARA 2002 – Category 1 NEMBA – Category 1b

    Where in South Africa is it a problem?

    Western Cape,Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, and Limpopo

    How does it spread?

    Seed dispersal

    Why is it a problem?

    Competes with and replaces indigenous riverine and forest margin species. Also competes with young trees in plantations, particularly pines and black wattle, inhibiting growth and causing stem deformation. It is a host of the KwaZulu-Natal fruit fly which is an economic pest. It has no fodder value and the plants are generally avoided by grazing animals. The unripe fruits are poisonous and the hairy leaves and stems can cause allergic dermatitis and asthma

    What does it look like?

    General description: A large, broad-leaved shrub with velvety stems and leaves growing up to 4m high. Leaves: Dull green leaves that are velvety above and white-felty beneath which emit a strong noxious smell when crushed. Flowers: Purple, in compact terminal clusters, on densely felty stalks up to 100mm long. Fruit/seeds: Spherical berries which start off green and turn yellow, in compact terminal clusters

    Does the plant have any uses?

    Ornament. Birds eat the fruits

    Plant me instead alternatives

    Weeping sage (Buddleja auriculata), false olive (Buddleja saligna), sagewood (Buddleja salviifolia), large spurflower bush (Plectranthus ecklonii), healing-leaf tree (Solanum giganteum), wild medlar (Vangueria infausta)