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Results tagged “solanaceae”

Apr 11, 2014: Isodendrion pyrifolium and Solanum incompletum

Another entry from Taisha, who writes:

Today's images (original 1 | original 2 | original 3) are of two rare and endangered endemic Hawaiin species, Solanum incompletum and Isodendrion pyrifolium. These photos of cultivated specimens were taken by David Eickhoff (aka D.Eickhoff@Flickr) on the Hawaii'in islands in May of 2008. The first photo shows the foliage of both species, while the other two give you a better idea of Solanum incompletum in flower and fruit. Thanks for sharing, David!

Isodendrion pyrifolium, of the Violaceae, is part of a genus of slender, woody shrubs. Isodendrion is from the Greek isos, equal, and dendron, tree, referring to the subequal petals and woody habit of those within the genus (here's a picture showing the flower of the species from Cornell's EES Field Program in Hawai'i). The four known species of Isodendrion are endemic to Hawaii, and are under threat due to urban development, fire, invasive plants, predation, and herbivory. Isodendrion pyrifolium, known as Wahine noho kula, is a branched shrub that was once thought to be extinct, having last been seen in the 1800s. It was rediscovered in North Kona on the island of Hawai'i in the early 1990s. Historically, this species was found on the islands of Ni'ihau, on the slopes of Mount Ka'ala on O'ahu, Moloka'i, Lāna'i, Hawai'I, and reported by Hillebrand in 1888 from Maui.

Solanum incompletum was what caught my eye in the first photograph with its reddish armature on the stems and leaves. This species, known as Pōpolo kū mia or pōpolo, occurs in dry to mesic forest, diverse mesic forest, and subalpine forest. Solanum incompletum is endemic to the islands of Maui, Lāna'i, and Hawai'i, although the book, Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai'i (volume 2), states that it also occurs on Moloka'i, Kaua'i. This species was also thought to be extinct for over 50 years. Despite rediscovery, it remains threatened by feral sheep, goats, pigs, alien plants, and fires.

Mar 8, 2014: Solanum baretiae

Taisha is again the author, and she writes:

Today's photographs are of Solanum baretiae, a species named in 2012. These photographs are courtesy of Eric Tepe, one of the researchers who first described Solanum baretiae, along with Glynis Ridley, and Lynn Bohs. The first two images were made by Eric, while the photo of the mature fruit was made by Lynn. Thank you Eric for sending these along!

Solanum baretiae is endemic to the Amotape-Huancabamba zone of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. The species is found growing in the understorey of montane forests, as well as disturbed roadsides and pastures. Leaves of this trailing vine can range from simple to 7-pinnate. Corolla colour ranges from white to violet, with hints of yellow on occasion.

As today is International Women's Day, a day that "celebrates social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action", I wanted to dedicate today's entry to a female botanist. I chose Jeanne Baret, who is the namesake for Solanum baretiae.

Jeanne Baret (1740-1807) was an accomplished botanist and unwitting French explorer who took considerable risks in order to do what she loved: botanize. While pursuing this passion, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the world. This would have been quite the feat, as women were prohibited from being on board a ship according to French naval regulations of the day. Disguising herself as a man, Jeanne joined the expedition on the ship, L'Étoile, under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Jeanne was hired as an assistant to the botanist Philibert Commerson, who also happened to be her lover. Commerson and Baret (although she was left uncredited) made over 6000 collections now incorporated into the French National Herbarium at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle.

Over seventy species were named in honour of Commerson using the epithet commersonii. It is known that Commerson was frequently unwell, leaving Baret to collect specimens. However, it wasn't until Solanum baretiae was named that Baret was honoured in a similar way to Commerson. Given the importance of her work and achievements, Tepe, Ridley, and Bohs (and I'm sure many others would agree) felt she had made sufficient contribution to the field of botany to deserve having a species named after her (see: Tepe, Ridley, Bohs. 2012. A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys. 8:37-47).

Although this example of an inequality toward women is from the 18th century, discrimination in science still exists today. Despite ongoing improvements, female scientists continue to be confronted by career challenges such as unequal pay and funding disparities, fewer occupational opportunities, and persisting societal beliefs about science being a "male domain". Schools, universities, government, associations and other bodies are making efforts to encourage women in science and retain them once in the field, however it is an arduous task requiring not only time, but awareness, cooperation, and understanding from all individuals.

Jan 2, 2013: Nicotiana attenuata

Bryant is the author of today's entry.

Today's images of Nicotiana attenuata (commonly known as coyote tobacco) were generously contributed by Danny Kessler, who researches this incredible species. Nicotiana attenuata may not appear extraordinary at first glance, but this species exhibits a number of remarkable responses to predation. Hawk moths (Manduca spp.) are both friends and foes to coyote tobacco. The adult moths are common nocturnal pollinators for this species, but the larvae (aka tobacco hornworm) are one of this plant's main predators. When a plant of coyote tobacco is subjected to the oral secretions produced by feeding hawk moth larvae, a chemical signal (jasmonic acid) is released into the air. This signal is picked up by the same individual and triggers a dramatic change in the individual's phenology. It does so rather dramatically, by switching from producing flowers that open at night (and hence attracting the hawk moth) to producing flowers that open during the day (which instead attract hummingbirds).

The figure above shows a timescale of morning opening flowers (MoF) and night opening flowers (NoF) with the black blocks representing darkness. The top photograph above shows the NoF on the left and the MoF on the right, taken at 8:00 a.m. when the NoF is still open but about to close, and the MoF is still closed but about to open. The third image shows the same pair of flowers from a top view (NoF on the right this time and MoF on the left).

In addition to changing the flower opening time, the plant will also alter the floral scents it emits, the nectar produced and the morphology of the flower! Once this switch has occurred in the plant, the number of hawk moth visitors significantly declines while the number of hummingbird visitors increases. This decline in hawk moth visitors results in a reduction in eggs that are deposited by hawk moths, thereby reducing future predation by hawk moth larvae. Pollination continues to successfully occur via hummingbirds.

This particular response is only elicited when a caterpillar of Manducca spp. begins to feed on the leaves of Nicotiana attenuata, however there are many other herbivorous predators that feed on this species. Switching pollinators is just one of many defenses in this species' arsenal. In fact, Nicotiana attenuata is somewhat of a master of chemical warfare. Its trichomes imbue feasting insects with a chemical scent that attracts insectivorous predators to come have a feast of their own. Also, as you may have guessed, this plant contains the toxin nicotine, which is harmful to virtually all other herbaceous predators (besides the hornworm) with muscle tissues, insects and smokers alike.

The keen observations made by researchers Dr. Ian Baldwin, Danny Kessler and Celia Diezel have elucidated the complex chemical and physical responses that occur when Nicotiana attenuata is predated by hawk moth larvae. But the question remains, why doesn't this species always produce morning opening flowers, and forego its interaction with the hawk moth altogether? There are a number of speculative hypotheses regarding this question but none have been proven.

For a detailed account of the research and findings conducted by Dr. Ian Baldwin and his colleagues see their paper: Baldwin, I.T. et al. 2010. Changing pollinators by Means of Escaping Herbivores. Current Biology. 20(3):237-242.

Professor Ian Baldwin and his colleagues are also featured in a recent documentary, Smarty Plants: Uncovering the Secret World of Plant Behaviour (an episode of The Nature of Things). The section on Nicotiana attenuata is around the 14 minute mark.

Jan 11, 2012: Iochroma cyaneum

Today's entry was assembled by Katherine:

Many thanks to JPierre@UBC Botanical Garden Forums for his pictures of Iochroma cyaneum. The first photograph is via the Botany Photo of the Day Submissions Forum, while the second was received via email.

Iochroma cyaneum, or violet churcu, is native to Ecuador and cultivated elsewhere. Gardeners in similar climates use them as evergreen ornamentals, while in harsher climates people grow plants outdoors in summer and use greenhouses or other structures to overwinter. According to Trade Winds Fruit, Iochroma cyaneum can flower year round, but will typically have more blossoms in the spring and fall. The Subtropical Horticultural Research Station has identified several cultivars of Iochroma cyaneum, with variation in flower colour distinguishing the cultivated varieties. Hummingbirds are known to be major pollinators of Iochroma.

In addition to violet churcu, Iochroma cyaneum is also known commonly as violet churur, blue cestrum and, in Swedish, pipviolbuske.

A relative of Brugmansia, or angel's trumpet, it shares the angel's trumpet's tendencies for toxicity (and, the same should be noted for many species within the Solanaceae or tomato family). All parts of Iochroma cyaneum are considered toxic, to the point where simply handling the plants may cause a reaction. Trade Winds Fruit notes that Iochroma cyaneum was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, as it is known to contain alkaloids and hallucinogens.

Jul 19, 2011: Hyoscyamus niger

Hyoscyamus niger

Alexis was the author of today's entry:

Today's photo was taken by James Gaither (J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Thanks, James!

Hyoscyamus niger, better known as henbane, black henbane or stinking nightshade, belongs to the nightshade family. Originally from Europe, North Africa, and western Asia, this species was introduced to North America in the 17th century for ornamental and medicinal purposes. It is now considered a weed in some places, e.g., Nevada (PDF), and has spread throughout much of Canada and the USA.

Henbane is poisonous to people and animals; luckily, many tend to avoid it because it is sticky to the touch and gives off an unpleasant odour. Symptoms of henbane poisoning can include tachycardia, blurred vision, delirium and confusion (Lampe's 1985 AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants). Several recorded cases of people, especially children and youths, consuming henbane have resulted in death or hospitalization (Frohne and Pfander's Poisonous Plants (2005)). Despite its harmful potential, Hyoscyamus niger has been used as a painkiller in folk medicine, and also as a hallucinogen (Allen and Hatfield's Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition (2004)).

You may recognize this species from Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which King Hamlet is murdered by a distillation of henbane being poured into his ear (see: Kotsias, BA. 2002. Scopolamine and the Murder of King Hamlet . Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 128:847-849).

Jun 2, 2011: Cestrum fasciculatum

Cestrum fasciculatum

Alexis is responsible for today's written part of the entry:

James Gaither (J.G. in S.F.@Flickr) took today's photo at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Thank you, James!

Solanaceae, the nightshade or potato family, is a morphologically and chemically diverse family distributed across the globe. Cestrum fasciculatum, just one of the family's 2500 or so species, is also known as early jessamine or red cestrum. This species is only native to southern Mexico though it has been introduced to other countries and is also used as an ornamental plant. This shrub can grow up to 2.5m tall and when young, its flowers and leaves are covered with soft dense hairs; as the plant matures, it becomes more glabrous or smooth. In some regions, Cestrum fasciculatum is considered a weed. Like all Cestrum species, Cestrum fasciculatum is toxic if ingested.

Dec 22, 2010: Brugmansia sanguinea

Brugmansia sanguinea

This cultivated specimen of scarlet angel's trumpet or red floripontio was photographed in the Berkeley Botanical Garden this past April. Like all members of the genus, it is native to South America: in this case, the mountain slopes of the Andes from northern Colombia to northern Chile at elevations of 2000-300m (6500-9750ft).

The photograph doesn't provide an idea of scale, so I need to note that the flowers are roughly 20cm (8in) in length. The Preissels, in their book Brugmansia and Datura: Angel's Trumpets and Thorn Apples, note that Brugmansia sanguinea "is the most wonderfully colored of all" members of the genus, with significant variation in number of colours on the flowers (up to three) and range of colours (from brilliant red to pink, orange to light yellow). Intriguingly, flower colour is correlated with temperature, so flowers developing in the summer will be differently shaded than flowers borne in the autumn. Too hot of conditions, however, will lead to flower development being inhibited in this species.

Unlike other members of the genus, Brugmansia sanguinea is not fragrant. Its pollinator (hummingbirds) doesn't rely on scent, but instead homes in on the (typically) red colouration.

Members of the Solanaceae often (always?) contain potent alkaloids. In the case of Brugmansia species, scopolamine and related compounds are found in high concentrations. At extremely low doses (e.g., 330 micrograms / day is cited by Wikipedia), scopolamine can be medicinal for purposes of treating nausea or intestinal pain. Somewhat higher doses were/are taken by indigenous peoples of South America to enter a mind-altering state purportedly used to make contact with the gods or spiritual ancestors. This has led to the occasional modern-day recreational usage, but I would say (in my opinion) only in instances of extreme stupidity given that it is: a) easy to take a fatal dose; and b) painful. Here's an account cited in the book by the Preissels, from J.J. von Tschudi's observations during travels in Peru between 1838-1842 (so in the public domain, I hope):

"The beautiful red Thorn Apple trees (Datura [Brugmansia] sanguinea) grow at the river's edge ... on the less steep slopes of the mountain. The natives call them Huacacachu, yerba de Huaca or Bovachero and use the fruit to prepare a very strong narcotic drink which they call Tonga. Its effect is terrifying. I once had the opportunity of watching how it affected an Indian who wanted to communicate with the spirits of his ancestors. The ghastly scene is so impregnated in my memory that I will never forget it. Soon after drinking the Tonga, the man fell into a dull brooding, he stared vacantly at the ground, his mouth was closed firmly, almost convulsively and his nostrils were flared. Cold sweat covered his forehead. He was deathly pale. The jugular veins on his throat were swollen as large as a finger and he was wheezing as his chest rose and sank slowly. His arms hung down stiffly by his body. Then his eyes misted over and filled with huge tears and his lips twitched convulsively for a brief moment. His carotids were visibly beating, his respiration increased and his extremities twitched and shuddered of their own accord."

"This condition would have lasted about a quarter of an hour, then all these actions increased in intensity. His eyes were now dry but had become bright red and rolled about wildly in their sockets and all his facial muscles were horribly distorted. A thick white foam leaked out between his half open lips. The pulses on his forehead and throat were beating too fast to be counted. His breathing was short, extraordinarily fast and did not seem to lift the chest, which was visibly fibrillating. A mass of sticky sweat covered his whole body which continued to be shaken by the most dreadful convulsions. His limbs were hideously contorted. He alternated between murmuring quietly and incomprehensibly and uttering loud, heart-rending shrieks, howling dully and moaning and groaning. This dreadful condition lasted for a long time until gradually the strength of the symptoms abated and peace was restored. Immediately the women hurried over, and washed him all over with cold water and made him comfortable on some sheepskins. He then slept quietly for several hours. In the evening I saw the man again when, surrounded by a circle of attentive listeners, he was relating his visions and his talks with the spirits of his ancestors. He seemed to be very tired. His eyes were glassy, his body was limp and his movements were lethargic."

And, in case that isn't enough to dissuade, here is a search on Google for fatal Datura with results pointing to a number of separate incidences of death (often young and male). Datura is a close relative of Brugmansia, with the same set of alkaloids.

Oct 28, 2010: Capsicum chinense [Habanero Group]

Capsicum chinense  [Habanero Group]

Thanks to Claire for writing today's entry, the last in the food and plant diversity series:

This photograph of Capsicum chinense was provided by Eric Hunt of San Francisco, California (Eric in SF@Flickr) via the BPotD Flickr Pool. His image of habanero peppers was taken at the Alemany Farmer's Market in San Francisco. Much appreciated Eric!

Capsicum chinense is in the Solanaceae. Other cultivated species with edible tissues in this family include tomato, potato and eggplant. Capsicum chinense is well-known for having a number of cultivated varieties, including the Habanero group of cultivars and 'Datil' as well as being a parent of the Naga Jolokia cultivar group (peppers of hybrid origin from Bangladesh and Assam, measured to be the hottest in the world). Nikolaus von Jacquin, who described Capsicum chinense in 1776 from seeds acquired in the Caribbean, incorrectly thought the species came from China (in part the reason for the scientific name Capsicum chinense, "of China").

Chili peppers (PDF) get their incredible heat from capsaicinoid molecules present in the fruit. The hotness is traditionally measured by the Scoville scale in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). However, the Scoville scale is subjective, so a quantitative measure, high performance liquid chromatography, is now used with subsequent conversion to SHU. Peppers from the Habanero group range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU while the Naga Jolokia group range from a whopping 855,000 to 1,075,000 SHU! By way of comparison, Jalapeño peppers range from 2500 to 8000 SHU.

Some major producing areas of Capsicum (encompassing many cultivated varieties of edible pepper) are Spain, eastern Europe, north Africa, Mexico, and the southwest United States. Originally from the Americas, Capsicum chinense was likely first cultivated in Peru or Bolivia, but spread throughout the world, first locally in the tropical and subtropical New World and then to distant continents. Spicy chilis are now a major ingredient in numerous dishes from cultures all over the world. It can be dried or eaten fresh, ground up, chopped, put in salsas, sauces and more! Pass that Tabasco please!

Oct 22, 2010: Solanum hybrid

Solanum hybrid

Thank you once again to Eric in San Francisco (Eric in SF@Flickr) for contributing an image (original) via the BPotD Flickr Pool. Much appreciated!

Before starting with today's entry: it's looking like the garden web site, including BPotD, will be moved to the new server sometime next week (the lack of entries is due to my preparing for the transfer). Fingers crossed that this helps resolves some of the issues we've been experiencing. It won't be Monday, though, as I'm also preparing for my lecture.

Continuing with the "Plant Diversity and Food" series, today's photograph highlights a food long in cultivation in the high Andes of South America (parts of Peru and Bolivia). These tubers are known as "bitter potatoes", and can be either Solanum × juzepczukii (a naturally-occurring hybrid of Solanum acaule and Solanum stenotomum) or Solanum × curtilobum (a cross between Solanum × juzepczukii and Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigena). Domestication is thought to have began approximately 8000 years ago, with particularly extensive use in the past 3000 years.

Bitter potatoes are often grown as a security crop. In comparison to the common potato, they are far more tolerant of the temperatures of high altitudes. From the chapter on tubers in Neglected Crops: 1492 from a Different Perspective: "Recently, in an area of Peru with frosts and temperatures of -5°C, the reduction in the harvest was 5 percent in the case of Solanum × juzepczukii, 30 percent in the case of Solanum × curtilobum and 40 percent in the case of the common potato."

Unlike the common potato, however, they require processing before they can be ingested. Bitter glycoalkaloids are present in the tubers, and these are broken down by processes akin to freeze-drying. For the production of black chuño, the tubers are subjected to a series of night-day cycles consisting of freezing at night and drying in the high-altitude sun during the day. Black chuño is often later rehydrated as a principal constituent of soups and stews. White chuño is a festival food, and it is processed in a more labour-intensive manner involving peeling of the bitter potatoes and storing them in water or constantly spraying them with water before beginning the process of drying. In some instances, geophagy (in this case, the consumption of clay) is also practiced as a means to neutralize the bitter taste of these potatoes (ref: The Cultural History of Plants).

Botany resource link: Eric also sent along the following link to share: the US National Science Foundation's Science Nation online magazine has an article and video on "Science Behind Bars". The article discusses Dr. Nalini Nadkarni's Sustainable Prisons Project, which has a mission to "reduce the environmental, economic and human costs of prisons by training offenders and correctional staff in sustainable practices...we bring science into prisons by helping scientists conduct ecological research and conserve biodiversity through projects with offenders, college students and community partners."

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