Native to northern Australia, the Bush Tomato also known as ngaru (Solanum chippendalei) is named after its discoverer, George Chippendale.

A small fruiting shrub that occurs in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland, the fruit are known as “bush tomatoes”, and are an important indigenous food. The aboriginal people who harvested this fruit would then broadcast the seed for later harvesting.1

Care should be taken when identifying the bush tomato in the wild as there are a number of closely related species, that are similar in appearance, but are toxic. In addition, there can be variation to the bush tomato, within the same species, the variation usually obvious in the leaves, making it appear to be different plants, even when they are growing in the same area.

If you are not an expert at identifying the plant, ‘DO NOT’ eat the fruit, as some Solanum species that look similar, are toxic.

In the Solanum species, the unripe fruit contains the toxin solanine (the same as that found in green potatoes). Only a select few species of Solanum produce edible fruit when fully ripen. Others remain toxic.

There are many other Solanum species that resemble Solanum centrale, and only some of them produce edible fruit eg Solanum chippendalei and Solanum ellipticum. Some closely related species produce fruit that are toxic.

Bush Tomato

The following images were provided courtesy of Tony Bean, Senior Botanist, Queensland Herbarium, Brisbane (Solanum is one of his specialities). AusEmade is appreciative of his contribution to our section on Solanum.

Common name
Bush Tomato, ngaru, Solanum chippendalei.

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Eudicots
  • Clade: Asterids
  • Order: Solanales
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Genus: Solanum
  • Species: S. chippendalei
  • Binomial name: Solanum chippendalei

Footnote & References

  1. Solanum succosum A.R.Bean & Albr. (Solanaceae), a new species allied to S. chippendalei Symon, Austrobaileya, A.R. Bean and D.E. Albrecht,  Vol. 7, No. 4 (2008), pp. 669-675.