A bush tomato that has evaded classification by solanologists for decades has been identified and is described as a new species belonging to the Australian “Solanum dioicum group” of the Ord Victoria Plain biogeographic region in the monsoon tropics of the Northern Territory. Although now recognised to be andromonoecious, S. plastisexum Martine & McDonnell, sp. nov. exhibits multiple reproductive phenotypes, with solitary perfect flowers, a few staminate flowers or with cymes composed of a basal hermaphrodite and an extended rachis of several to many staminate flowers. When in fruit, the distal rachis may abcise and drop. A member of Solanum subgenus Leptostemonum, Solanum plastisexum is allied to the S. eburneum Symon species group. Morphometric analyses presented here reveal that S. plastisexum differs statistically from all of its closest relatives including S. eburneum, S. diversiflorum F. Meull., S. jobsonii Martine, J.Cantley & L.M.Lacey, S. succosum A.R.Bean & Albr. and S. watneyi Martine & Frawley in both reproductive and vegetative characters. We present evidence supporting the recognition of S. plastisexum as a distinctive entity, a description of the species, representative photographs, a map showing the distribution of members of the S. eburneum species group and a key to the andromonoecious Solanum species of the Northern Territory of Australia. This new species is apparently labile in its reproductive expression, lending to its epithet, and is a model for the sort of sexual fluidity that is present throughout the plant kingdom.
McDonnell A.J., H.B. Wetreich, J.T. Cantley, P. Jobson, C.T. Martine. 2019. Solanum plastisexum, an enigmatic new bush tomato from the Australian Monsoon Tropics exhibiting breeding system fluidity. PhytoKeys 124: 39-55. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.124.33526
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