Botanist Christopher T. Martine with his Bucknell University students Emma Frawley and Jason Cantley, and Botanist Ingrid Jordon-Thaden from the University of California, Berkley, discovered a new species of a bush tomato plant and has named it Solanum Watneyi, after the fictional Mark Watney in the science-fiction film "The Martian."
This certainly makes spending money to bring Matt Damon back from someplace he should not have been in worth it, at least for botanists who were happy about the most recent Matt Damon rescue.
Professor Martine, together with his students, worked together to germinate and take note of every single detail of the plant he brought "home" to the Bucknell greenhouse.
"I took measurements of almost everything about these plants ... as well as hand pollinating within and out of species to set fruit. Any observable differences were noted, too," Frawley said.
When they finally had all the details they needed to ensure that it was indeed a new bush tomato specie, Martine decided to involve the students in the naming process.
"We've chosen to name Solanum watneyi after this character, Mark Watney, in part because of the similarly reddish soils of its habitat and the congeneric nature of the potato - but, most notably, as a way to honor the creation of a sci-fi hero botanist by author Andy Weir and to acknowledge perhaps the finest paean to botanical science (and botanical field work) that Hollywood has yet presented," the researchers explained.
The S. Watneyi is a bush tomato plant, yes, but it's not the usual type of tomato in stores because despite being edible, they are not usually eaten. Take a look at how the S. Watneyi looks compared to a more common species, S. Eberneum.
The S. Watneyi was actually first discovered by botanist Pete Latz in the 1970s and recognized by fellow botanist David Symon as a Solanum subspecies after Latz sent him samples. Symon affirmed that the sample sent to him was a Solanum but that it had no name in his records so it was only identified as "bullita" since it is mostly found along the Bullita Stock Route in Northern Australia. It was not until 2014, when Martine took his family to Australia and procured the specimen to be studied, that the S. Watneyi was finally declared as a new species.