In November 2013, Keeling searched the Valentine area for days before finding the third specimen on the Elder property near where the 1990 specimen was found.
"He looked everywhere and finally found one horrible, wilted plant specimen," Bohs says. "It looked awful. It was wilted and brown and had some seeds we thought we'd be able to germinate, but they weren't any good. It was totally pathetic, and we were sad because we wanted a beautiful picture of the flowers to put in a publication."
"It's probably not extinct because Keeling found one plant that had been living in 2013," she adds. "Whether that was the last one or not, we don't know. We're hoping that by publicizing this, more people will look for it and more plants will be found." Stern believes more are out there.
Keeling collected the specimen of S. cordicitum, pressed and mounted it, then sent it to Stern in Grand Junction. The specimen found in 1974 now is at the University of Texas at El Paso. The 1990 specimen is stored at the University of Texas at Austin.
Weedy but Not a Weed
S. cordicitum and the varieties that are newly elevated to species belong to section Androceras, which is a group of weedy Solanum plants native to the central and southwestern U.S. and Mexico. That is unusual because most Solanum groups are tropical, Bohs says. The most widespread Androceras species is S. rostratum, known as buffalo bur, prickly nightshade and Kansas thistle.
In all Androceras species, the calyx, or outer envelope of the flower and fruit "is really spiny," Bohs says. A larger group of 350 to 400 Solanum species are known as "spiny solanums" because they have prickles. The group includes wild eggplant. Spines have been bred out of domestic eggplant.
While S. cordicitum belongs to a weedy group wit
|Contact: Lee J. Siegel|
University of Utah