Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Apple of Sodom (Solanum linnaeanum) is a prickly shrub with purple-blue flowers and yellow fruits.
  • It is found in coastal or near coastal areas of southern Australia (excluding Tasmania).
  • It often occurs as scattered plants but can form dense swards in pasture or disturbed bushland.
  • It is spread by seed, perhaps mostly by movement of soil and has limited dispersal potential by birds or mammals.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Apple of Sodom (Solanum linnaeanum) is an erect to rounded shrub that usually to grows to about 1m high, sometimes reaching 1.4 m high and broad. The stems are mid green with a sparse to moderate covering of minute star-shaped hairs and with scattered (or sometimes more frequent) stout, broad-based, straw-coloured prickles about 15 mm long. The leaves are alternately arranged along the stem, shortly stalked (the stalks 10–20 mm long), bright green on both sides, covered with scattered, minute, star-shaped hairs, elliptic in outline (widest at the middle), mostly 40–100 mm long and 28–60 mm wide, sometimes up to 15 x 80 mm,  deeply cut (about three quarters of the way to the midrib) into 3–4 rounded, wavy-edged lobes on each side and with numerous stout prickles up to 15 mm long above and below.  

The flowers are borne in loose clusters of 3–6, towards the ends of the branches and on the stem between the leaves, often just below the base of every second leaf; they are stalked, saucer-shaped and pentagonal to star-shaped, predominantly pale purple-blue, with a bright yellow centre (the anthers). The green calyx (outer cup-shaped covering at the base) has 5 long lobes and is usually covered in numerous prickles.  

The lowest one or two flowers in each cluster develop into fruits. The  fruits are globular, bright yellow when mature but persisting of the plant and eventually turning brown or black, 23-30 mm diameter and fleshy or juicy rather like a small tomato but becoming dry; they contain 100–200 seeds. The seeds are rounded, slightly swollen,with a minutely rough surface, light brown to mustard-coloured, rarely blackish; they are 2–3 mm long (Symon 1981; Bean 2004).

For further information or assistance with the identification of Apple of Sodom contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Apple of Sodom grows in areas receiving at least 500 mm rainfall per annum, with cool winters and hot summers. It prefers modified habitats where soil nutrients are moderate. It has become naturalised along roadsides, in urban bushland, waste areas, neglected pasture and disturbed sites (Bean 2004). In Victoria it is confined to alkaline coastal sands and basaltic soils (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001).

Are there similar species?

Apple of Sodom is of similar appearance to Narrawa Burr (Solanum cinereum) but that species has a white underside to the leaves, prickles that are more slender, and the fruits remain green at maturity (Bean 2004).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Apple of Sodom has impacts on both environment and agriculture. In grazing paddocks, the plant is avoided by stock, and hence gains a competitive advantage over other plants that are grazed. In this way, it proliferates and dense infestations can restrict stock movements and harbour rabbits (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). 

It can also compete strongly with native species, especially herbs and grasses (Carr et al. 1992).

How does it spread?

Apple of Sodom is dispersed by seed. It generally spreads quite slowly because it seems very few birds or other animals eat the fruits and hence disperse the seeds. 

What is its history in Australia?

Apple of Sodom was first recorded as a weed at Port Jackson in 1801. Its mode of arrival is unrecorded, but was probably introduced by ships from South Africa, as a contaminant of ballast, hay or grain (Symon 1981).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Mechanical control: Grubbing out of Apple of Sodom plants is effective where relatively small numbers are involved, especially if the plants (together with any dislodged berries) are also heaped for burning (Parsons & Cuthbertson 2001). For more extensive infestations in pasture, mowing or slashing is effective for reducing the impact of the weed on the pasture grasses, but several follow-up slashings will be necessary, or herbicide should be applied to the actively growing regrowth (Anon. 2007).

Chemical control: herbicides can be used successfully, particularly on seedlings and actively growing regrowth.

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au .

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Apple of Sodom is a perennial plant. It flowers from July to December, while fruits may be found throughout the year. Seeds can remain viable for many years (Bean 2004).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Apple of Sodom is naturalised in coastal or near coastal areas of south-western Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and southern Queensland (Symon 1981; AVH 2021).

Where does it originate?

Apple of Sodom is native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa (Symon 1981; Bean 2004).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Solanum linnaeanum

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Solanum hermanni : Symon (1981 – incorrect spelling for S. hermannii)
  • Solanum hermannii Dunal
  • Solanum sodomaeum:  Mueller (incorrect spelling for S. sodomeum)
  • Solanum sodomeum var. hermannii Dunal
  • Solanum sodomeum L. (misapplied by Heine, H. 1976, Flore de la Nouvelle-Caledonie. 7: 144.; Black, J.M. 1957, Flora of South Australia Edn 2. 4: 750.; Willis, J.H. 1973, A Handbook to Plants in Victoria Edn 2. 2: 554.; Laing, R.M. 1915, Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institute. 47: 2.; Maiden, J.H. 1904, Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales Series 2. 28: 765.)

Blackberry – a community-driven approach in Victoria

Blackberry the weed (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) was first introduced to Australia by European settlers in the mid-1800s as a fruit. It was recognised as a weed by mid-1880s. Blackberry is a serious issue across Australia. It is estimated that blackberry infests approximately 8.8 million hectares of land at an estimated cost of $103 million in annual control and production losses.

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