Solanum phoxocarpum (Osigawai and Sigawet, Masai, Kenya)

Solanum phoxocarpum is a tree or shrub 3–6m tall, with several spiny stems growing out of the ground.

It grows at high altitudes in Kenyan and Tanzanian mountains, where it can be found in woodland above 2,100m.

There are large curved prickles on the main stems and the fruits are unusual conical berries, each fruit containing about 30 kidney-shaped seeds.

Like other Solanum species, this plant is pollinated by bees, which ‘buzz’ the anthers causing pollen to shoot out of holes at the anther tips.

Solanum phoxocarpum

Solanum phoxocarpum shrubs. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya. © Maria Vorontsova

In spite of the protection by National Parks in Kenya and Tanzania the populations of Solanum phoxocarpum are decreasing with the destruction of the highland forests.

Distribution

Solanum phoxocarpum grows primarily in Kenya with some occurrence in Tanzania. It is endemic to the East African Rift Valley, including:

  • the Rift Valley Province
  • Central Province
  • Masai Province in Kenya
  • Northern Province in Tanzania

Species detail

  • Solanum phoxocarpum
    Taxonomy

    Solanum phoxocarpum has an unusual appearance, with strange pointy yellow fruits, mauve flowers and large curved prickles on its stems. Take a closer look at this striking plant and its close relatives.

  • Solanum phoxocarpum
    Biology

    Solanum phoxocarpum is pollinated by bees, which collect the ripe pollen by landing on the plant’s anthers and vibrating, causing the pollen to shoot out. Find out more.

  • Solanum phoxocarpum
    Uses

    Find out what Solanum phoxocarpum can be used for.

  • Solanum phoxocarpum
    Conservation

    Solanum phoxocarpum is not currently at risk of extinction, but it is likely to decline as its habitat disappears. Find out more.

  • Solanum phoxocarpum
    References

    Get reference material for Solanum phoxocarpum.

Images

Solanum phoxocarpum

Cross-section of the unusual Solanum phoxocarpum fruit. A pen used here as a scaling object. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

Solanum phoxocarpum - the conical pointed fruits. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

A female fertile Solanum phoxocarpum flower, the long style visible between the anthers. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

Shrubs of Solanum phoxocarpum growing by the path. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

Solanum phoxocarpum plant with several fruits visible. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

Male fertile Solanum phoxocarpum flower, with anthers but no style visible in the middle. Aberdare Mountains, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova
Solanum phoxocarpum

Solanum phoxocarpum fruits collected by the Kenya Seeds for Life project, waiting for the seeds to be prepared for storage. National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya.

© Maria Vorontsova

About the author

maria
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Researching the spiny Solanum of Africa and Madagascar using traditional botanical systematics techniques.

A word from the author

"It is 2010, and there are still spiny trees out there completely not known to science!"

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Glossary
Indumentum

A covering of hairs.

Infructescence

Branch bearing fruits.

Poricidal

Adjective describing anthers with openings at the tips.

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