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The wild spiny aubergine hunt

2 Posts tagged with the solanum_thomsonii tag

The Southern Highlands of Tanzania are much cooler than the rest of the country, with plantations of tea and quinine. Driving through the tea plantations and the tea factories the smell is amazing. In every village there is a “kijueni” – resting place on the main road where the men gather to hang out and chat, while women meet each other inside houses and in back gardens. As we drove past I saw a kijueni underneath a large shady shrub of Solanum thomsonii, the species endemic to the Southern Highlands.



Flowers of quinine, Cinchona grandis, growing in a quinine plantation.



Eric and Frank at the back of the car on the bumpy road.



The endemic Solanum thomsonii differs from the closely related Solanum aculeastrum by its numerous small orange fruits.


As soon as we drive out of Mbeya town and turned around a corner, the rare endemic Solanum thomsonii was everywhere, growing all down the road. It often grows mixed together with the closely related Solanum aculeastrum, and there seem to be some plants intermediate between the two species. We spent most of the day observing these and making collections. It is difficult to concentrate because as soon as we start work more and more children come running from all directions! They are friendly and want to talk to us, but after many hours I get tired – do not think I would make a very good school teacher!



Eric preparing specimens of Solanum thomsonii. We usually arrive at a hotel late at night and press the plants we collected after dinner; it is usually dark and we have to work by torchlight.



Member since: Mar 18, 2010

I'm Maria Vorontsova from the Botany Department. Join me as I head to Tanzania and Kenya to hunt for wild spiny aubergines. I'm looking forward to an interesting journey, some interesting company and some interesting finds.

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