Brazilian relative of the humble tomato is a true 'star'

The thorny, spikey Solanum kollastrum might look somewhat evil by plant standards, but a closer look at this curious new species will place it within its ecosystem.

Recently described in open access journal PhytoKeys, this newly discovered  of the tomato has stems, densely armed with prickles of up to 17 mm long and to 2 mm wide at the base. In fact, the new species is named after yet another showy defence mechanism. The name kollastrum comes from the Greek words for glue and star, referring to the peculiar sticky hairs that end in a star-like formation.

Field observations of the new species have suggested that it's preferred by medium- to large-sized bees. The fruit structure of S. kollastrum, with fruits hanging outside its foliage on long axes, along with the numerous relatively small seeds and the release of a mild sweetish scent, suggest that the fruits are also eaten by bats.

Endemic to eastern Brazil, the new species is mostly concentrated along the Mucuri River watershed, where it inhabits edge of small forest fragments. In fact, the species is especially seen in areas at the base or on the peculiar and gigantic geological formations known as ‘inselbergs’ or 'sugar loaves'. quoted authors from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará, Brazil as saying: "The discovery of S. kollastrum, a robust and conspicuous plant growing at the roadsides in regions close to large urban centres, highlights how insufficiently known the Brazilian flora is.”

"This highlights how urgent the need is to describe, study and conserve the country's plant diversity. Thus, we hope that this discovery encourages the study on the most diverse aspects of this species' biology."

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