Solanaceae

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Potato Family

Lycianthes multiflora Bitter, a sprawling shrub of forest edges and gaps. Un arbusto trepador de claros y bordes del bosque.


Description: A large family of herbs and soft-wooded shrubs and climbers. Solanaceae are alternate-leaved, but some (particularly in the genus Solanum) have a small leaf opposite the main large one at a node. The fascinating developmental morphology of this small leaf is discussed in Bell (1991, p. 230-232). Solanaceae are often spiny, and most of them have a disagreeable green tomato odor in the crushed vegetation. The flowers are very characteristic, with a tubular corolla and five appressed stamens that form a cone protruding from the center. There are a few other plants that have this sort of flower, most notably in the Myrtaceae (B. Boyle, pers. comm.), so beware of making an identification based solely on the shape of the flowers!

Economic uses: Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa), eggplant (Solanum melongena), and peppers (Capsicum sp.) are the best-known cultivated Solanaceae. In Central America, numerous other species are grown. The most prevalent are naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) and tomate de arbol (or tomate de palo; Cyphomandra betacea), often used for making juices or candied for dessert. Watch out! Some people have a violent gastrointestinal reaction to tomate de arbol.


Descripción: Una familia diversa de hierbas, arbustos de madera suave, y trepadoras. Las Solanaceas tienen hojas alternas, pero algunas (especialmente dentro del género Solanum) presentan uno hoja pequeña opuesta de la hoja grande en cada nudo. La morfología y crecimiento fascinante de esta hoja es descrito en Bell (1991, p. 230-232). Las Solanaceas muchas veces tienen tallos espinosos, y al estrujar las hojas un olor desagradable a tomate inmaduro. Las flores son características, con una corola tubular y cinco estambres que se unen para formar un cono en el centro de la flor. Existen otras plantas con flores parecidas, especialmente en las Myrtaceas (B. Boyle, comm. pers.), así que no se debe identificar una planta solamente usando esta característica de las flores.

Usos económicos: Hay muchas plantas cultivadas pertenecientes a la familia Solanaceas. En todo el mundo, los más populares son la papa (Solanum tuberosum), el tomate (Lycopersicon esculentum), el tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa), la berenjena (Solanum melongena), y los chiles (Capsicum sp.). En Centroamérica, se cultiva también la naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) y el tomate de arbol (o tomate de palo; Cyphomandra betacea), que se usa para jugos o azucarado en postres. ¡Cuidado! El tomate de palo puede causar trastornos gástricos en algunas personas.


Genera/species at La Selva: 9/31: Browallia (1), Capsicum (1), Cestrum (3), Cuatresia (2), Lycianthes (3), Merinthopodium (1), Physalis (2), Solanum (16), Witheringia (2).


FIELD MARKS – alternate (pseudo-opposite = appearing to be opposite, but really pairs of leaves originating on same side of stem!), simple leaves, anisophylly (within a pair of leaves one is noticeably larger than the other), unpleasant odor.


Solanum sp. showing pairs of leaves of different sizes originating from the same side of the stem.
Merinthopodium neuranthum is a bat-pollinated epiphyte.
The leaves of Merinthopodium neuranthum have a distinct tomato plant odor.
The tomato-like flower of Lycianthes sanctaeclarae identifies it as a member of the solanaceae


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