SALT LAKE CITY, July 9, 2014 Collectors found the first two specimens of the prickly plant in 1974 and 1990 in west Texas. Then, for two decades, the 14-inch-tall plant was identified wrongly as one species, then another and then a third.
Now after a long search turned up a "pathetic, wilted" third specimen a University of Utah botanist and her colleagues identified the spiny plant as a new, possibly endangered species and named it "from the heart" in Latin because it was found in Valentine, Texas, population 134 in 2010.
Most new plant species are found in the tropics, and it is uncommon for a new one especially a flowering plant to be found in the United States, says University of Utah biology professor Lynn Bohs, senior author of a new study describing and naming Solanum cordicitum (pronounced So-lay-num core-duh-SEE-tum).
"It's a new, unique plant from the United States," she says. "Plus it's from Valentine, which is extremely charming, and that gave rise to its name, S. cordicitum."
Bohs' study identifying S. cordicitum as a new species was published today in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.
The three specimens of S. cordicitum all now pressed and mounted in museums are the only ones known to exist. The new species belongs to the genus Solanum, which includes some 1,500 species of mostly poisonous plants, including nightshades, but also three economically important, global food crops: tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants the last of which is most closely related to S. cordicitum, Bohs says.
Cordicitum is derived from cordicitus, Latin for "from the heart," but is altered to cordicitum because it must end with the same syllable as Solanum to comply with naming rules. The plant has no common name. The derivation of Solanum is unknown, but may be from sol for sun or from solamen for
|Contact: Lee J. Siegel|
University of Utah