LYNN A BOHS portrait
  • Steering Committee, International Solanaceae Genome Initiative
  • Adjunct Curator, Utah Museum of Natural History
  • Professor, School Of Biological Sciences

Research Summary

Systematics, phylogeny, and economic botany of plants, particularly Solanaceae


  • B.A. summa cum laude, Botany, University of New Hampshire
  • M.S., Biology, Harvard
  • Ph.D., Biology, Harvard University. Project: Dissertation: The biology and taxonomy of Cyphomandra (Solanaceae)


My research interests include plant systematics and phylogeny and the evolution of domesticated plants. My main focus is the taxonomy and evolutionary relationships of plants in the Solanaceae (tomato family). This family includes many species of economic importance, such as the tomato, potato, eggplant, chili pepper, petunia, and tobacco, as well as lesser-known species with potential uses as foods or medicines. Some solanaceous plants have been subjected to intensive human selection and several are known only in cultivation, allowing their use as systems to study the evolutionary interface between plants and people.

Presently my laboratory is concentrating on the systematic and evolutionary relationships in Solanum, the largest genus in the family. This group, which includes some 1000 to 1500 species, is economically important as a source of foods, ornamentals, and medicinally useful or poisonous alkaloids. Ongoing projects include construction of an overall phylogeny for Solanum and related genera using molecular and morphological characters and more detailed studies of several subgroups within the genus, some of which contain economically useful species.

One example of a focused study concerns the putative domesticate Solanum betaceum, the tree tomato. This species is widely grown throughout the tropics and subtropics for its edible fruits. Until recently, it was considered to be known only form cultivation and its wild relatives and place of origin were unknown. Using a variety of approaches, including morphology, biosystematics, molecular techniques, and field work, we have been able to identify the closest relatives of S. betaceum and locate wild populations of this species in Bolivia and Argentina. The same array of approaches can be used to investigate the origin and evolution of plant domesticates in the Solanaceae and in other plant families.

In addition to phylogenetic research, I am also involved in floristic and revisionary studies. Current floristic projects include treatments of the Solanaceae for Costa Rica, Solanum for North America, and selected solanaceous taxa for Mesoamerica.