Wild Relatives of the Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.: Solanaceae): New Understanding of Species Names in a Complex Group


The common or brinjal eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) belongs to the Leptostemonum Clade (the “spiny” solanums) of the species-rich genus Solanum (Solanaceae). Unlike most of the genus, the eggplant and its relatives are from the Old World; most eggplant wild relatives are from Africa. An informal system for naming eggplant wild relatives largely based on crossing and other biosystematics data has been in use for approximately a decade. This system recognises several forms of two broadly conceived species, S. incanum L. and S. melongena. Recent morphological and molecular work has shown that species-level differences exist between these entities, and a new species-level nomenclature has been identified as necessary for plant breeders and for the maintenance of accurately named germplasm.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We examined herbarium specimens from throughout the wild species ranges as part of a larger revision of the spiny solanums of Africa. Based on these morphological and molecular studies, we delimited species in the group to which the common eggplant belongs and constructed identification keys for the group. We also examined the monophyly of the group considered as the eggplant relatives by previous authors.


We recognise ten species in this group: S. aureitomentosum Bitter, S. campylacanthum A.Rich., S. cerasiferum Dunal, S. incanum L., S. insanum L., S. lichtensteinii Willd., S. linnaeanum Hepper & P.-M.L.Jaeger, S. melongena L., S. rigidum Lam. and S. umtuma Voronts. & S.Knapp. We review the history of naming and provide keys and character lists for all species. Ploidy level differences have not been investigated in the eggplant wild relatives; we identify this as a priority for improvement of crop wild relative use in breeding. The application of species-level names to these entities will help focus new collecting efforts for brinjal eggplant improvement and help facilitate information exchange.
Category: General
Authors: Knapp, S., et al.
Journal/Series: PLoS ONE
Publication Year: 2013

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