Solanum quitoense is a special plant, but not for the faint hearted!

When I visited Kobakoba in Somerset this summer I saw this strange looking plant by the door. Looking rather dry, it still managed to impress me with it's big leaves. So I asked what it was..... Solanum quitoense! And what a monster it is!
Unfortunately it's not hardy, hence the fact it's still in it's pot. I was quite seriously taken with these large green leaves with a warm purply hue, but the clincher was when I saw the felty leaves.....
...were covered in short but vicious spines! But then it got better.....  because the spines underneath the leaves are BIGGER and NASTIER!!!! This has to be one of the most child un-friendly plants on earth...?!
The flowers are rather large and rather charming, about an inch or so across (2.5cm). Rather interestingly they continue the felty theme from the leaves- the back of each petal is felty (you can see this on the top petal). The fruits appear in late summer and are, predictably, felty! I don't know at this point how big they will be when they ripen, but at the moment they are the size of a small egg.
Solanum quitoense is native to South America where it is often found at quite high altitudes. In cultivation it likes a sunny location and to be kept warm during winter (about 7deg C). Absolutely fine outdoors in summer where it can be used for it's foliage in a tropical planting. Two down sides- prone to problems if it's kept too moist, and I'm afraid it is a dust magnet (as you can see from the photos!). Really worth a go. For the less adventurous a spine-free form is in cultivation.