"Some of them are permanently quieting because they are deadly poisonous," Bohs says. The Solanaceae family, including the genus Solanum, is known as the nightshade family, and many of the plants are toxic, hallucinogenic or medicinal, although others like tomatoes, potatoes and chili peppers are edible.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered and threatened species categorizes the status of newly identified S. cordicitum as "data deficient," but Bohs says it "probably is really endangered."
Bohs conducted the research with two other botanists: Stephen R. Stern, who earned his doctorate at the University of Utah and now is on the faculty of Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction; and Jeffrey Keeling, who just earned his master's degree at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.
Three Other Plants Elevated from Varieties to Species
Discovery of the new species was a small part of a five-year, $4.36-million National Science Foundation-funded study led by Bohs to better classify and create a comprehensive online inventory of all 1,500 species in Solanum, one of Earth's largest genera of flowering plants.
In the same study, the botanists elevate to full species status three other closely related plants that were previously named varieties of other Solanum species but that DNA analysis showed to be separate species. Like the new species, they all belong to a group of Solanum named section Androceras, which now includes 16 species with the reclassifications by Bohs and colleagues:
-- S. knoblochii (no-BLOCK-ee-eye) previously was classified as S. citrullifolium variety knoblochii. Only five plants have been collected from two sites in Mexico's western Chihuahua state. Its status is "data deficient," but Bohs and colleagues write that it "warrants near
|Contact: Lee J. Siegel|
University of Utah