A class of 150 US 7th graders has helped select a name for a newly discovered plant, which amazes with its fruits that appear to be bleeding once they are cut open. A biology professor and a life science teacher challenged the students to come up with ideas for what to call a new Australian species.
This new flowering bush species of the genus Solanum 'behaves' nothing like an ordinary plant. While its unripened fruits are greenish white on the inside when cut open, they start 'bleeding' in no more than two minutes. The scientists have even filmed a short video showing how their insides turn bloody scarlet at first, before growing darker, appearing just like clotting blood.
A number of the students suggested names based on two characteristics of the plant's berries: the 'bleeding' unripened fruits and the dry and bone-hard mature ones. Based on this, the plant will now be known as Solanum ossicruentum, best translated to Australian blood bone tomato, with "ossi" meaning "bone" and "cruentum" meaning "bloody." The species belongs to the genus of the tomato.
For the experts: A new Australian species of functionally dioecious bush tomato of Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum is described. Solanum ossicruentum Martine & J.Cantley, sp. nov., is thought to be allied with members of the problematic “Dioicum Complex” lineage, but differs in its short silvery indumentum, long calyx lobes, larger stature, and an unusual fruit morphology that may represent “trample burr” seed dispersal. The species occurs in a range extending from the eastern Kimberley in Western Australia to far northwestern Northern Territory and has been recognized for decades as a variant of S. dioicum W.Fitzg. Specimens of this species were previously referred to by D.E. Symon and others as Solanum dioicum ‘Tanami.’ Ex situ crossing studies and SEM images of inaperturate pollen grains produced in morphologically hermaphrodite flowers indicate that this taxon is functionally dioecious. The scientific name was chosen with the help of 150 seventh grade life science students from Pennsylvania, USA.