FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Botanists in West Texas have identified a new species of plant that is likely poisonous — and may be near extinction.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram (http://bit.ly/1m47JVd ) reports that specimens of the spiny distant relative of the eggplant had already been discovered twice in 1974 and 1990, but were misidentified.
The study identifying the plant is published in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of the Botanical Research of Institute of Texas, which was released Wednesday.
A group of scientists and students from universities in Colorado, Utah and Texas had set out to find the plant that has been named Solanum cordictum. The name, which in Latin means "from the heart" is a reference to Valentine, a town of 134 residents where it was found in November by Jeffrey Keeling, a graduate student doing research on his master's degree in biology at Sul Ros State University in Alpine, Texas.
The three specimens found to date have been pressed and are on display at museums.
The plant is similar to other species in the area but those are perennials, while the newly found species is annual. "It blossoms once and dies, which makes it harder to find," Keeling told the newspaper.
Despite the perception that most new plants are found in the tropics, Texas, Utah and California are actually hot spots for new foliage, according to, Lynn Bohs, the author of the study identifying the Valentine plant.
The Solanum cordictum can grow to about 14 inches tall. Its stems and leaves — each with three or four lobes per side — are speckled with very short hairs and spines about one-fifth of an inch long.
The research was paid for with a five-year, $4.36 million National Science Foundation grant that aims to better classify and create a comprehensive inventory of all 1,500 species in the genus of flowering plants.
Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com