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New Species of Bush Tomato Discovered in Australia

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The newly-discovered species belongs to Solanum, a large and diverse genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family Solanaceae.

Solanum scalarium. Image credit: T.M. Williams.

Solanum is the most species-rich genus in the family Solanaceae and among the largest in the angiosperms (flowering plants).

Around 1,400 accepted species are distributed on every continent except Antarctica.

Solanum includes three food crops of high economic importance: the potato, the tomato and the eggplant (also known as brinjal or aubergine).

“Much of the richness of the genus is concentrated in circum-Amazonian tropical South America, but other hotspots include Africa and Australia,” said Bucknell University botanist Tanisha Williams and colleagues.

“Solanum is often recognized by its pentamerous flowers with fused sepals and petals, five stamens, 2-chambered superior ovary, poricidal anthers, and, in many species, branched hairs and/or prickles.”

“The genus exhibits great diversity both in vegetative and reproductive traits (especially in floral and fruit traits), ecology, and reproductive biology.”

The newly-discovered Solanum species is a perennial pale green shrub up to 30 cm (11.8 inches) tall.

Scientifically named Solanum scalarium (common name is the Garrarnawun bush tomato), the species is so far known from one site in Judbarra/Gregory National Park in the Australia’s Northern Territory.

“Solanum scalarium is a member of the taxonomically challenging ‘Kimberley dioecious clade’ in Australia and differs from other species in the group in its spreading decumbent habit and conspicuously prickly male floral rachis,” the researchers said.

“The common name Garrarnawun bush tomato is proposed in recognition of the lookout point at a site in Judbarra/Gregory National Park, a traditional meeting place of the Wardaman and Nungali-Ngaliwurru peoples whose lands overlap in this area.”

Solanum scalarium is presently known from a single population of perhaps 50-100 individuals.

The species occurs on skeletal pink soil, exposed sandstone pavement and dissected rock.

“Pollination biology of the species is unknown, but, like other Australian congeners, the flowers are likely buzz pollinated by bees in the genera Xylocopa and Amegilla and likely to present high levels of pollen nutritional reward,” the scientists said.

“While we expect that more localities for Solanum scalarium are likely to be found given the prevalence of similar — and less accessible — outcrops in the immediate region of the type collection, at present it is known from one protected collection site in Judbarra/Gregory National Park,” they added.

“Based on IUCN Red List Categories, the species should be considered Data Deficient.”

The team’s work was published online in the journal PhytoKeys.


T.M. Williams et al. 2022. Solanum scalarium (Solanaceae), a newly-described dioecious bush tomato from Judbarra/Gregory National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. PhytoKeys 216: 103-116; doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.216.85972

Source : Breaking Science News

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