Red Bitter Berry
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Red Bitter Berry
ative Photo: Prashant Awale
Common name: Red Bitter Berry, healing-leaf tree, giant bitter-apple, red bitter-apple • Marathi: kurti • Tamil: paintilikakkoti, paintilikam
Botanical name: Solanum giganteum    Family: Solanaceae (Potato family)
Synonyms: Solanum niveum

Red Bitter Berry is a much-branched shrub or small tree up to 6 m high. Branchlets are covered with white, woolly hairs and stout straight prickles up to 5 mm long. Leaves are elliptic, margin entire, large, up to 25 x 9 cm, softly textured, dark green, becoming hairless/smooth above, velvety whitish/silver below. Flower-stalks are reflexed in flower, erect in fruit; large bract-like leaves are often present in the axils of the stem leaves. Flowers are borne in many-flowered, branched, dense, terminal corymbs, faintly scented. Flowers are white, mauve to blue or purple, 1.5 cm in diameter, anthers yellow. Red Bitter Berry fruit is a smooth, globose berry, 5-10 mm in diameter, green, ripening through orange to bright red, finally purplish red, remaining on the plant for at least six months. Flowers and fruit are often found on the same plant, even in the same inflorescence.
Medicinal uses: The leaves of the plant were formerly used as a dressing for festering, open sores: the woolly undersurface being applied to cleanse the lesion and the smooth upper surface to heal it. The early Cape settlers also used an ointment (with fat) of the fresh juice of the berry and leaf for a similar purpose. Hutchings et al. (1996) record that the fruit is used for throat ulcers by the Zulu, Xhosa and Mfengu.

Identification credit: Shrikant Ingalhalikar
Photographed in Muthodi, Karnataka.
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