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Tom Price, WA. Photo: A.Robinson A.Robinson

Line drawing by M. Szent Ivany, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981) 280, fig. 127.

Sketch of fruit with remnant male rachis by D. E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gards 4 (1981), fig. 157D.

Distribution map generated from Australia's Virtual Herbarium.  

Synonymy

Solanum diversiflorum F. Muell., Fragm. Phytogr. Austral. 6: 146 (1868)

T: La Grange Bay, Martin s.n.; syn: MEL; Davenport Range, J.M. Stuart s.n.; syn: MEL; Upper Victoria River, F. Mueller s.n.; syn: K, MEL; Port Walcott, C. Harper s.n.; lecto: MEL 12119; iso: K, fide D.E. Symon, J. Adelaide Bot. Gard. 4: 280-281 (1981).

Description

Sparingly clonal, rounded shrub to 50 cm, green or grey-green, pubescent with stellate hairs; prickles to 1 cm long, pubescent for three quarters of length, scattered to abundant on most parts.

Leaves ovate to ovate-oblong; lamina 2-4 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, sometimes larger, concolorous, deeply lobed; lobes oblong or obovate; petiole to 15 mm long.

Inflorescence of one bisexual flower below cyme of up to 20 male flowers; peduncle absent; rachis 3-5 cm long. Bisexual flower: pedicels 1-3 cm long, lengthened in fruit; calyx 5-7 mm long, the lobes narrowly triangular, 1.5-3 mm long, lengthened in fruit; corolla rotate-pentagonal, c. 3 cm diam., purple; anthers 5-6 mm long. Male flowers similar: pedicels 8-15 mm long; calyx-lobes oblong, 2-3 mm long; anthers 4-5 mm long.

Berry depressed globular, 2-3 cm diam., pale greenish-yellow; fruiting pedicel 2-4 cm long; fruiting calyx lobes 10-15 mm long. Seeds 3.5-5 mm long, dark brown to black. n=12.

Distribution and ecology

Occurs from north-western W.A. north of the Tropic to the Kimberley, extending east to the Tanami Desert in N.T.

Usually on red sandy plains, often with gravelly capping, or on low stony hills, dominated by Triodia and Acacia.

Relationships

An andromonoecious species i.e. one in which there are male flowers and bisexual flowers on the one plant. Often there are many male flowers in an inflorescence with 1(-2) bisexual flowers at their base.

Andromonoecious species of the Dioicum group in Australia include S. beaugleholei, S. clarkiae, S. chippendalei, S. diversiflorum, S. eburneum, S. heteropodium, S. melanospermum, S. oedipus and S. phlomoides .

Symon (1981) indicated that S. diversiflorum was quite distinctive amongst the andromonoecious species. The DNA studies of Martine et al. (2006) indicate that S. diversiflorum, together with S. chippendalei, S. beaugleholei, S. phlomoides and probably S. eburneum formed one of three clades for the andromonoecious species of the Dioicum group of subgen. Leptostemonum.

However further molecular analysis involving the trnK-matK gene region has now indicated that all of the Australian andromonoecious species (except for S. campanulatum , S. cinereum and S. stupefactum ) should be combined to form a single clade which also includes two African andromonoecious species and the Australian hermaphrodite species S. hoplopetalum (Martine et al., 2009).

References: Martine, C.T., D. Vanderpool, G.J. Anderson, and D.H. Les (2006). Phylogenetic relationships of andromonoecious and dioecious Australian species of Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum section Melongena: Inferences from ITS sequence data. Systematic Botany 31: 410-420; Martine, C.T., G.J. Anderson & D.H. Les (2009). Gender-bending aubergines; molecular phylogenetics of cryptically dioecious Solanum in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 22: 107-120.

Notes

While S. diversiflorum usually has only one bisexual flower at the base of the inflorescence, occasional specimens do produce more. For instance, in the collection Alcock 11381 from midway between Broome and Port Hedland, two small fruits have formed at the base of the male inflorescence, in addition to the usual larger fruit at the base of the whole inflorescence. There are also other bisexual flowers within the inflorescence.

It would appear that those fruits which do develop may not do so fully; one has already been lost while still quite small.

An important food where it occurs in Central Australia (see P.K. Latz (1995). Bushfires & Bushtucker. Aboriginal Plant Use in Central Australia. IAD Press, Alice Springs).

Information on the food composition of the fruit of S. diversiflorum can be accessed through the NUTTAB 2006 (Nutrient Tables for use in Australia) database of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

Germination studies for mine regeneration or the native food industry indicated that germination of seed of this species is promoted with gibberellic acid.

Reference: Commander LE, Merritt DJ, Rokich DP, Flematti GR & Dixon KW (2008). Seed germination of Solanum spp. (Solanaceae) for use in rehabilitation and commercial industries . Australian Journal of Botany 56, 333–341.

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Derivation of epithet

The epithet diversiflorum was presumably a reference by the author of the species to the different sizes in an inflorescence of the male flowers and the functionally female flowers.

Selected specimens

W.A.: Between Uaroo & Nanutarra, 1905, A. Morrison (CANB, E, K, PERTH); 139 km SW of Halls Creek, D.E. Symon 5281 (AD, CANB, PERTH). N.T.: Negri-Stirling area, C. Dunlop 3577 (DNA); 48 km WNW of Mongrel Downs Homestead, P.K. Latz 756 (AD: 2 sheets, NT).

Plant status, if any

Conservation status as a plant of least concern in theNorthern Territorysee www.nt.gov.au/nreta/wildlife/animals/native/pdf/plants_lcs-z.pdf

From the web

Further information and images of S. diversiflorum in WA can be found on the FloraBase site.

Further information and links for this species can be found on the Solanaceae Source site.