Taisha is again the author, and she writes:
Today's photographs are of Solanum baretiae, a species named in 2012. These photographs are courtesy of Eric Tepe, one of the researchers who first described Solanum baretiae, along with Glynis Ridley, and Lynn Bohs. The first two images were made by Eric, while the photo of the mature fruit was made by Lynn. Thank you Eric for sending these along!
Solanum baretiae is endemic to the Amotape-Huancabamba zone of southern Ecuador and northern Peru. The species is found growing in the understorey of montane forests, as well as disturbed roadsides and pastures. Leaves of this trailing vine can range from simple to 7-pinnate. Corolla colour ranges from white to violet, with hints of yellow on occasion.
As today is International Women's Day, a day that "celebrates social, political and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action", I wanted to dedicate today's entry to a female botanist. I chose Jeanne Baret, who is the namesake for Solanum baretiae.
Jeanne Baret (1740-1807) was an accomplished botanist and unwitting French explorer who took considerable risks in order to do what she loved: botanize. While pursuing this passion, she became the first woman to circumnavigate the world. This would have been quite the feat, as women were prohibited from being on board a ship according to French naval regulations of the day. Disguising herself as a man, Jeanne joined the expedition on the ship, L'Étoile, under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville. Jeanne was hired as an assistant to the botanist Philibert Commerson, who also happened to be her lover. Commerson and Baret (although she was left uncredited) made over 6000 collections now incorporated into the French National Herbarium at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle.
Over seventy species were named in honour of Commerson using the epithet commersonii. It is known that Commerson was frequently unwell, leaving Baret to collect specimens. However, it wasn't until Solanum baretiae was named that Baret was honoured in a similar way to Commerson. Given the importance of her work and achievements, Tepe, Ridley, and Bohs (and I'm sure many others would agree) felt she had made sufficient contribution to the field of botany to deserve having a species named after her (see: Tepe, Ridley, Bohs. 2012. A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys. 8:37-47).
Although this example of an inequality toward women is from the 18th century, discrimination in science still exists today. Despite ongoing improvements, female scientists continue to be confronted by career challenges such as unequal pay and funding disparities, fewer occupational opportunities, and persisting societal beliefs about science being a "male domain". Schools, universities, government, associations and other bodies are making efforts to encourage women in science and retain them once in the field, however it is an arduous task requiring not only time, but awareness, cooperation, and understanding from all individuals.