Solanum is one of the world's largest and economically most important plant genera, including 1245 currently accepted species and several major and minor crops (e.g., tomato, potato, brinjal eggplant, scarlet eggplant, Gboma eggplant, lulo, and pepino). Here we provide an overview of the evolution of 25 key morphological traits for the major and minor clades of this giant genus based on stochastic mapping using a well-sampled recently published phylogeny of Solanum. The most evolutionarily labile traits (showing >100 transitions across the genus) relate to plant structure (growth form and sympodial unit structure), herbivore defence (glandular trichomes), pollination (corolla shape and colour), and dispersal (fruit colour). Ten further traits show evolutionary lability with 50–100 transitions across the genus (e.g., specialised underground organs, trichome structure, leaf type, inflorescence position and branching, stamen heteromorphism). Our results reveal a number of highly convergent traits in Solanum, including tubers, rhizomes, simple leaves, yellow corollas, heteromorphic anthers, dioecy, and dry fruits, and some unexpected pathways of trait evolution that could be explored in future studies. We show that informally named clades of Solanum can be morphologically defined by trait combinations providing a tool for identification and enabling predictive phylogenetic placement of unsampled species.
Hilgenhof, R., E. Gagnon, S. Knapp, X. Aubriot, E.J. Tepe, L. Bohs, L.L. Giacomin, Y.F. Gouvêa, J.R. Stehmann, C.T. Martine, A. Orejuela, C.I. Orozco, I.E. Peralta, T. Särkinen. 2023. Morphological trait evolution in Solanum (Solanaceae): evolutionary lability of key taxonomic characters. Taxon. https://doi.org/10.1002/tax.12990