Sol

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SOUTH CORDILLERA

 
     
  Flora:  SOLANUM & NICOTIANA GENERA  

 

This page deals with two economically important genera of SOLANACEAE, the Potato Family.  The huge Solanum genus has given us the potato, and Nicotiana the curse of tobacco.

Potato cultivation originated in the Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia, where some 3000 varieties have been recognized.  Oddly, the virtual monoculture that has become a world staple can be traced back to southern Chile, notably the Chiloe area.  Solanaceae is also known as the Nightshade Family after the poisonous European relative.  In the southern Cordillera, there are an immense number of Solanum species, so confusion in nomenclature is to be expected.  Locally, the plants tend to be called Tomatillos, although many species have more specific popular names.

 

This is not Idaho.  Here in western Peru a woman laboriously plants potatoes in rocky ground, using traditional tools. Click to see big picture (630x480 pixels; 151 KB)
While on the coast nearby, a sky-blue Solanum grows wild, likely S. multifidum.  Known as wild potatoes, this may well have been one of the species from which the agricultural complex was originally derived. Click to see big picture (640x334 pixels; 81 KB)
Despite its name, the yellow-flowered Solanum chilense is also at home here in Peru. Click to see big picture (561x480 pixels; 117 KB)
Its fruit is unusual, exhibiting speckles and bars. Click to see big picture (640x436 pixels; 119 KB)
Solanum elaeagnifolium is native to both North and South America.  In English it has several names, some such as Silverleaf Nightshade refer to its leaf color, while others emphasize its thorny habit.  This is a major roadside weed in parts of northwestern Argentina. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 90 KB)
The leaves of S. elaeagnifolium (try pronouncing that after a pisco sour) become whiter with age.  Local names include Quillo and Revienta Caballos (bursts horses?-- there has to be some story there). Click to see big picture (418x480 pixels; 125 KB)
Another species called Revienta Caballos, is Solanum sisymbriifolium.  It tends to be called Shoo Fly or Sticky Nightshade in English.  This starts out by producing what look like giant burrs.
But from these emerge striking tomatillos.  They are edible-- a tad sour.  Although native, the species is now widespread.
Solanum nigrum is known as Black Nightshade.  It has been imported from Europe into many regions, including central Chile, and is weedy by habit.  Although some strains seem poisonous, the fruit and leaves of others are eaten in some parts of the world. Click to see big picture (506x480 pixels; 61 KB)
Solanum lycioides, native to Peru and Bolivia, here identified in the Royal Gardens, Madrid.  For some reason this species has been bumped from its genus and is now referred to as Lycianthes lycioides in polite company. Click to see big picture (322x480 pixels; 67 KB)
This is a bit embarrassing.  The gene-jugglers have apparently decided to dump two Chilean species into Solanum crispum.  Alas these two are sufficiently dissimilar that they have different popular names.  From the southern forests, ex. S. gayanum, known locally as Contulmo and in foreign gardens as the Chilean Potato Tree. Click to see big picture (473x480 pixels; 71 KB)
While Solanum Crispum ex. S. ligustrinum tends to be found high in the central and southern Andes, and goes by the name of Natre of Natri. This may be one form. Click to see big picture (640x352 pixels; 91 KB)
A white form of Natri, enjoying the fogs in the botanical gardens at San Francisco. Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 81 KB)

Back to southern Chile for a Solanum that has converted to a vine.  Solanum krauseanum is known as the Tomatillo Trepador.
Click to see big picture (576x480 pixels; 85 KB)
Solanum cyrtopodium is also native to southern Chile, but here has traded for the equally cold rains of the UBC Bot. Gardens, Vancouver.  Some authorities have included this in S. Valdiviense. Click to see big picture (600x480 pixels; 80 KB)
Solanum cyrtopodium is known to be a variable species, especially in regard to leaf shape.  This is from UBC again, and there seems to be some confusion as to what this species should look like. Click to see big picture (640x469 pixels; 106 KB)
From near the head of the Maule River in the Chilean Andes,  this looks likely to be Solanum etuberosum, or some hybrid thereof.  Not to be confused with Solanum tuberosum, your supermarket potato.
Moving up to the coast north of central Chile, this is likely Solanum pinnatum (ex. S. maritimum), one of the species known as Esparto. Click to see big picture (640x421 pixels; 109 KB)
And from the same area of "Norte Chico", Solanum heterantherum approx. Click to see big picture (394x480 pixels; 98 KB)
A closer view of the sky-blue flowers of Solanum heteratherum. tomatillo
A maroon colored Solanum on the edges of the Atacama Desert, is likely to be S. remyanum. Click to see big picture (288x480 pixels; 75 KB)
While this long-leaved species from Peru appears to be Solanum nitidum, whose range extends south into northernmost Chile. Click to see big picture (553x480 pixels; 120 KB)
From 3500 meters in the western ranges of central Peru, a shy and nodding shrub. solanum
Good Morning!  Near the town of Aija in the ranges of Central Peru, this solanum species appears to largely close at night. 
Bugweed and Woolly Nightshade are two names for this large plant.  Solanum mauritianum is poisonous and invasive, but for some reason has made it to several parts of the world.  It prefers the tropics, but can be found up to a thousand meters altitude on the northeastern rim of the Cordillera. Click to see big picture (564x480 pixels; 97 KB)
Another giant of the genus is the Devil's Fig, Solanum hispidum.  It is native to parts of Peru and Bolivia, and has seen some popularity as a garden plant. Click to see big picture (575x480 pixels; 133 KB)
The fruit of Solanum hispidum, presumably the Devil's Figs themselves. Click to see big picture (620x480 pixels; 107 KB)
This is a very similar plant from the Condor Range in northern Peru. Click to see big picture (535x480 pixels; 83 KB)
And from the same area, a giant white-flowered species, virtually a tree. Click to see big picture (640x366 pixels; 94 KB)
From the 3000 meter level in the Yauyou Range of Peru, a plant so distinctive that it may not even be a Solanum.  Very pretty. solanum
Solanum quitoense is native to northwestern South America, including northern Peru, but it has been planted widely due to its fruit, known as Naranjilla. Click to see big picture (572x480 pixels; 133 KB)
The Naranjilla fruit, when ripe, yields a delicious green juice with a citrus flavor. Click to see big picture (640x398 pixels; 87 KB)

Tobacco was used, mainly for sacred and medicinal purposes, in both North and South America, by the indigenous peoples.  There is evidence of its employment as early as 6000 B.C.  Now that its addictive nature and health issues are understood, it is viewed in quite a different light, but  it is still smoked or chewed in huge quantities around the world.  In the Southern Cordillera, Nicotiana species tend to be called Tabaco or Tabaquillo.

 

 
This Peruvian plant with red flowers has many of the properties of the cultivated Nicotiana tabacum, although that modern form is a hybrid.  San Francisco Bot. Gardens. Click to see big picture (639x480 pixels; 119 KB)
Nicotiana acuminata, with its long, slender trumpet flowers, ranges over much of the Southern Cordillera.  It is known by names such as Tabaco del Cerro and Tabaco silvestre. Click to see big picture (640x430 pixels; 83 KB)
There are three varieties or subspecies of Nicotiana acuminata, and this case from northwestern Argentina, may be one of them. Click to see big picture (304x480 pixels; 54 KB)
The long-leaved, resinous species such as this are likely to be Nicotiana corymbosa, widely distributed and often called Tobaquillo.  It is a night bloomer, moth pollinated. Click to see big picture (485x480 pixels; 78 KB)
Another species from the mountains of Mendoza Province, Argentina. Click to see big picture (570x480 pixels; 90 KB)
Nicotiana solanifolia is sometimes called Tabaco Cimarron. It is found in Peru and northern Chile. Click to see big picture (535x480 pixels; 84 KB)
Common through much of the Southern Cordillera is Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca. Click to see big picture (327x480 pixels; 63 KB)
A closer look at the flowers of Tree Tobacco.  This is one of the plants usually referred to as Palqui although in Argentina the indigenous Palan-palan is sometimes used. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 65 KB)
And what is this?  From above the town of Salta, Argentina, a Nicotiana type flower from a thorn shrub. Click to see big picture (578x480 pixels; 97 KB)