New Bush Tomato Species Named After Mark Watney from The Martian

Posted on March 7, 2016

Solanum watneyi

A newly discovered species of bush tomato has been named after Mark Watney, the main character in The Martian book and movie. The plant, named Solanum watneyi, was discovered in Australia by biology professor Chris Martine of Bucknell University.

Martine says in a statement, "This is a botanist portrayal that turns an unusually bright spotlight on authentic scientific endeavor. Scientist heroes are already unusual in Hollywood, but a space-deserted protagonist who studies plants as a profession is something extraordinary. The plant that Watney manages to grow on Mars is none other than Solanum tuberosum (the potato), a member of the same genus as our new species."

The Martian author Andy Weir wrote on Facebook, "What higher honor could a botanist like Watney ask for than to have a plant named after him? And to have it be a relative of the potato as well? Perfect!"

The new species was found by Martine during a six-week expedition to the Northern Territory of Australia with his wife, Rachel, and their two children. Rachel drew the illustration of the species that appears in the PhytoKeys paper. The new species grows in and around the western part of Judbarra/Gregory National Park.

The research paper on the new bush tomato can be found here in the journal, PhytoKeys.

Photo: Christopher T. Martine