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Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution
2016, Pages: 1–16

Solanum insanum L. (subgenus Leptostemonum Bitter, Solanaceae), the neglected wild progenitor of eggplant (S. melongena L.): a review of taxonomy, characteristics and uses aimed at its enhancement for improved eggplant breeding

R. H. G. Ranil, J. Prohens, X. Aubriot, H. M. L. Niran, M. Plazas, R. M. Fonseka, S. Vilanova, H. H. Fonseka, P. Gramazio, S. Knapp

Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.


Solanum insanum L. (Solanaceaeae) is the wild progenitor of common eggplant (S. melongena L.) and is naturally distributed in south and southeast Asia, Madagascar and Mauritius. Despite interest in its potential for eggplant breeding it has not been studied extensively. Solanum insanum has been subjected to various taxonomic treatments, with several discussions and arguments on its delimitation as a species, due to its close similarities with the cultivated S. melongena and the wild species S. incanum L. from the Middle East and northern Africa. Solanum insanum has long been used in a variety of medicinal and culinary preparations across many different Asian ethnolinguistic groups. Limited studies carried out on its chemical composition and pharmacognostical properties coupled with ethnobotanic studies reveal that S. insanum has potential for eggplant improvement with respect to phytochemical properties of interest for human health. Further study of morphological and genetic diversity in S. insanum is essential to promote its utilization in eggplant breeding, in light of its potential to hybridize with cultivated eggplant successfully. Here we compile and review the taxonomy, phytogeography, ecology and habitat characteristics, cytology, ethnobotany, breeding and phytochemical analysis of S. insanum. A comprehensive botanical description and illustrations for S. insanum are provided. A detailed comparison of S. insanum and its closely allied species, S. melongena and S. incanum is also made. The potential of S. insanum for crop improvement and future research priorities are discussed.

Keywords: Solanum insanum, Eggplant, Taxonomy, Phytogeography, Ethnobotany, Breeding.

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