Herbs, shrubs or trees, sometimes climbing, with fibrous or tuber-bearing roots or rhizomatous, sometimes armed with straight to hooked prickles, usually pubescent with a variety of simple, branched or stellate, rarely peltate, eglandular or glandular hairs, sometimes accompanied by bristles, often with multicellular glands intermixed, rarely glabrous. Leaves alternate, sometimes appearing in pairs with one larger (major) and the other smaller (minor), petiolate or sessile, sometimes clasping the stem, entire to deeply lobed or pinnatisect, sometimes prickly, sometimes with pseudostipules. Cymes developmentally terminal but quickly overtopped by the lateral shoot which is often fused with the basal part of the peduncle (concaulescent) so the cyme becomes lateral and extra-axillary, less often axillary or leaf-opposed, variously developed, consisting of terminal cincinni, sometimes curled (scorpioid), elongate (racemiform) or contracted (umbelliform), with a peduncle, sometimes dichotomously branched (paniculiform or corymbiform) or unbranched (racemiform), or ± sessile (fascicled), few–many-flowered, rarely 1-flowered, ebracteate and ebracteolate. Flowers actinomorphic, sometimes slightly zygomorphic, (4)5(6)-merous, bisexual or the lower ones bisexual and the upper ones in the same inflorescence functionally male (female sterile by reduction of the ovary), elsewhere occasionally all unisexual; pedicels often articulated above the base to the midpoint (perhaps indicating ancestral bracteoles), rarely at the base, leaving small scars on the axes when shed. Calyx longer than the corolla tube, campanulate, rotate or cupular, with (4)5(10) valvate teeth or lobes, sometimes accrescent and sometimes investing the fruit when mature, the lobes appressed or loosely raised, sometimes reflexed, when mature mostly splitting at the sutures. Corolla most often flushed purple, violet or blue, sometimes mauve or white, more rarely yellow, shortly tubular to campanulate, rotate or deeply stelliform; tube usually short; limb usually broad, entire to deeply lobed or even divided to the base, spreading to reflexed, the lobes usually ± pubescent to tomentose on the back, united or not by a membrane, with plicate or induplicate-valvate aestivation. Stamens equal to unequal, ± as long as the corolla lobes, usually exserted; filaments often short, glabrous or pubescent, inserted on the corolla tube at varying heights, often partially connate or united at the base forming a ring or rarely wanting; anthers usually all fertile, rarely rudimentary, short and thick to elongate and tapered, occasionally prolonged into a sterile appendage, rarely pubescent, usually connivent around the style, rarely connate, attached at the base or shortly above, dehiscing by terminal pores, these sometimes developing into short or long slits; connective sometimes enlarged. Disk inconspicuous or absent. Ovary usually ± globose, basically 2-locular with an expanded axile placenta, sometimes elaborated and developing 1–2 secondary ("false") septa between its principal lobes, appearing 3–4-locular, or dividing into branches filling the locules, the ovules hemicampylotropous, numerous; style simple, equalling or exceeding the anthers, terete, erect or declinate and somewhat sigmoid in shape and then with the stigmatic tip often bent or almost hooked, rarely persistent; stigma terminal, capitate, small or slightly elongate, obscurely 2–4-lobed to markedly 2-fid. Fruit a berry, pale green, yellow to red, brown to purple, ± black or ivory-white, usually globose, sometimes ovoid, rarely conical or oblong, when ripe juicy, mucilaginous, fleshy, papery or bony, sometimes partially hollow, rarely dry and sub-capsular, usually 2-locular with slightly enlarged placental area in the centre of the septum, from it radiating the seeds into the usually pulp-filled locules between the septum and the pericarp, becoming unilocular by reduction of the septum, more rarely 3–4-locular by proliferation of it, sometimes aromatic, mostly falling from the receptacle, with or without sclerotic granules. Seeds few–many, mostly flattened, compressed laterally, mostly discoidal or ± reniform, rarely surrounded by a distinct wing or appearing tomentose or hirsute; testa smooth or minutely pitted, less often muricate; embryo circinnate, sub-marginal in the fleshy usually abundant endosperm; cotyledons ovate to linear-lanceolate in outline, incumbent or sometimes oblique. Predominantly diploid, but also tetraploid, hexaploid or octoploid; chromosome number-base: x=12.
p. Pl.: 184 (1753); Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 85 (1754). —Hunziker, Gen. Solanacearum: 270–315 (2001).