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Overview

Distribution

Weedy shrub of forest clearings, thickets, pastures, roadsides, coffee plantations, ravines, streamsides and perhaps within the forest itself. At moderate altitudes, ranging from 800 to 2400 m, but most collections from between 1200 and 2000 m, in rainforest, cloud forest or oak-pine (only in northern Central America) zones. In the Cordillera from southern Mexico to Peru and easterwards through Venezuela to Trinidad, also in eastern Brazil and eastern Paraguay. Probably more tolerant of shade than its near relative S. atropurpureum.

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Formal Description

Habit

Erect shrubs 0.5–3 m tall. Stems one or sometimes few from base, the branches few, ascending at a ca. 45° angle, ± densely puberulent with minute simple 1-celled gland-tipped hairs, sparsely to densely pilose with simple 1–6-celled simple hyaline hairs 2–3.5 mm long; stems prickles dense, straight, acicular, 0.1–2 cm long, often fewer in upper flowering branches, glabrous except for scattered minute simple 1-celled gland-tipped hairs less than 0.1 mm long.

Sympodial Structure

Sympodial units 2-foliate, geminate or not.

Leaves

Leaves simple, the blades 5–18 x 4–15 cm, single or geminate, if geminate then one about twice the size of the other, ± ovate, thin-textured, pilose (rarely glabrous) adaxially with 2–4-celled simple hyaline hairs 0.6–2.4 mm long, also with minute simple gland-tipped hairs 0.2 mm long on veins and a few scattered on the surface, puberulent abaxially with minute simple gland-tipped hairs on the veins, ± sparsely pilose with 1–3-celled simple hyaline hairs 0.5–2 mm long, with few to many sessile 4–5-rayed stellae 0.6–0.8 mm wide, sparsely armed adaxially and abaxially with prickles on the major veins similar to those of the petiole, grading down to very small ones on minor veins; base truncate; margin entire to deeply 4-lobed; apex acute; petioles of larger leaves 4–9 cm, with pubescence similar to that of the stems, the prickles 0–10, similar to those of the stem but only of the larger sizes.

Inflorescences

Inflorescences 0.6–4 cm, extra-axillary, unbranched, with 3–10 flowers, with 1–8 fruits developing, the axes with pubescence similar to that of the stem; prickles straight, few (often none), less than 5 mm long; peduncle 0.5–3.5 cm in flower, 0.5–3.5 cm in fruit; rachis to 1 cm; pedicels 8–15 mm in flower, 15–25 mm in fruit, curved, sulcate and enlarged distally (4 mm thick in Nee 14155 when fresh) , nearly contiguous.

Flowers

Flowers with the calyx 3–4 mm long, lobed 1/2 way to base, the tube 1–2 mm, the lobes 1.5–3 x 1–1.5 mm, narrowly triangular, the tips somewhat thickened and spreading, the margins slightly scarious, sparsely pilose with 2–4-celled simple hyaline hairs 1–1.6 mm long, with a few short prickles, or these usually lacking; fruiting calyx not accrescent, the lobes 2–3 x 1–1.8 mm, the tips thickened. Corollas 1–2 cm in diameter, 8–10 mm long, stellate, thin-textured, yellow-green, the tube 3–4 mm, narrowed but not conpsicuously constricted at base, the lobes 6–8 x 1.5–4 mm, lanceolate, spreading at anthesis, recurved but not coiling at apices, pilose abaxially with 2–4–celled simple hyaline hairs 0.6–2 mm long, glabrous adaxially. Stamens with filaments 1–2 mm long; anthers 4–6 mm long, 1.5–2 mm wide at base, rather abruptly tapering, yellow, free, the pores small and directed distally. Ovary with minute stipitate glands; style 6–7 x 0.5 mm, cylindrical, white; stigma truncate.

Fruits

Fruits 1–2 cm in diameter, globose, yellow, yellowish-green, or white, often with darker green mottling, the surface glutinous when ripe but otherwise glabrous; pericarp 1.3–1.7 mm thick.

Seeds

Seeds 40–75 per fruit (average = 59, n = 25), 3.2–3.6 mm in diameter, flattened, suborbicular, brown, the wing 0.8 mm wide.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

Flowering and fruiting all year throughout most of its range in frost free areas, perhaps seasonal in the most southern and northern portions of its range.

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Evolution and Systematics

Systematics or Phylogenetics

Phylogeny

Solanum acerifolium belongs to group of species with conspicuous wings surrounding the periphery of the seeds in sect. Acanthophora in subgen. Leptostemonum (Nee, 1979, 1991, 1999). Within this unnamed subsection (Nee, 1999) it is strongly supported as sister to S. atropurpureum + S. tenuispinum (Levin et al., 2005). Solanum acerifolium belongs to the Leptostemonum clade of Solanum (Bohs, 2005). The Acanthophora clade is a monophyletic group that includes most of the species traditionally recognized in Solanum section Acanthophora Dunal (the S. mammosum species group of Whalen, 1984; Levin et al., 2006).

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Molecular Data

chloroplast trnS-G sequence: Genbank AY555454 (voucher Bohs 2714, UT). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/viewer.fcgi?db=nucleotide&val=49065894 nuclear waxy (GBSSI) sequence: GenBank AY562949 (voucher: Bohs 2714, UT). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/viewer.fcgi?db=nucleotide&val=45826380 chloroplast trnT-F sequence: GenBank AY266249 (voucher: Bohs 2714, UT). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/viewer.fcgi?db=nucleotide&val=33355750 nuclear ITS sequence: GenBank AY561261 (voucher: Bohs 2714, UT). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/viewer.fcgi?db=nucleotide&val=49458079

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Common Names and Uses

Brasil: arrebenta cavallo do reino (Peckolt 35). Colombia: guinda de viejo (Idrobo & Fernández 250); mancadera valluna, naranjilla espinosa (Duque 1716). Ecuador: ya me cure (Steyermark 54627). Costa Rica: berenjena (Orozco 437); rabo de chanco (Orozco 32, Standley 41862, Standley & Valerio 44064). Honduras: huistomate (Molina & Molina 27917). Guatemala: ixtú (Standley 69501). Colombia: yguillón (Daniel 4116).

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References and More Information

Commentary

This species can be confused with S. atropurpureum but the leaves are much less deeply lobed. The similar S. tenuispinum of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru is scarcely sympatric and has longer pedunculate inflorescences with more flowers, although in other respects they are sometimes difficult to separate.

The status of this species in Brazil is problematical; all but four of the collections date from before 1900 and the latest collection is from 1922, despite its wide distribution there. Variation is present on some Brazilian specimens that is rare or absent elsewhere, e.g. leaf lobing or the glossy look of the glabrous upper leaf surface (Riedel 1075; Löfgren 781, 1385; Peckolt 35). The scattered Brazilian collections were previously excluded from S. acerifolium in a discussion of its geography (Nee, 1979), but I am now including them. Most agree perfectly with material from the main range, while none cited here differs in any fundamental characters. The leaf shape of S. acerifolium is so variable that additional shapes are not too surprising. The few atypical collections cannot be equated with any other Brazilian species and in any case would be most closely related to S. acerifolium even if a few of the collections eventually prove to belong to a different species.

Very little habitat data can be gleaned from the pre-1900 Brazilian collections, but it presumably has a similar ecology to that elsewhere. The collections from Pernambuco (Swainson s.n.) attributing it to "catinga woods" surely does not mean that it inhabits the thorn scrubland with many Cactaceae and terrestrial bromeliads which is the modern concept of "caatinga" vegetation of the semiarid interior of the Brazilian Nordeste.

A possibility is that the distribution of S. acerifolium is somehow related to coffee production. It is commonly found in and around coffee plantations, both producing and abandoned. It is possible that the Brazilian collections represent sporadic introductions from coffee producing areas of the Andes or Central America. Alternatively, it could be native to Brazil and has become introduced into the rest of its range inadvertently with commerce.

In 21 of 93 (22%) labels on which flower color is noted, the flower is said to be white. I suspect this represents laxness on the part of collectors and that the corolla is a rather uniform light yellowish green, perhaps fading to a lighter color as the corolla ages.

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