Surprise from the heart of Texas

Jeffrey Keeling/Sul Ross State University

Surprise from the heart of Texas

Sid is a freelance science journalist.

A small, spine-covered plant long mistaken for similar species is a new type of flowering plant, researchers report. The prickly, weedlike plant has been dubbed Solanum cordicitum, which is derived from the Latin for “from the heart”—a wry nod to the fact that all three known specimens of the apparently rare species were discovered near the small town of Valentine, Texas. The plant grows to about 35 centimeters high, has white flowers, and is an annual, meaning it blooms once, then dies. Unlike S. cordicitum, closely related species are perennials sporting yellow flowers that are smaller and sit atop shorter stalks, the researchers report online today in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. The new species was discovered as part of a 5-year, $4.36 million study funded by the National Science Foundation to inventory all 1500 or so species in the Solanum genus—a diverse group that includes poisonous plants commonly known as nightshades as well as agriculturally important crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

Posted in Plants & Animals