Solanum maglia


Solanum maglia distribution Map note

Solanum maglia is a South American species, found primarily in Chile, but also in one location in Argentina.  It is a low-elevation, primarily coastal species.  It is the only wild potato that has a significant distribution in Chile.  According to Brucher (1990), S. maglia was the first wild potato species to be described.  It is sometimes known as Darwin’s Potato, but it isn’t clear if Darwin ever saw this species, as there has been confusion between this species and Chilean S. tuberosum varieties.  Luther Burbank wrote about results from crosses between this species and S. tuberosum that aren’t consistent with what we would now expect.  The other common name for this species, papa cimarrona, is also applied to the yam species Discorea brachybotrya.  The specific epithet, maglia, is a Latinization of the native name for this species.

Plants reach about two feet tall.  Tubers are formed terminally on stolons about 18 inches long. Tubers are small, reaching about and inch and a half at most.  Mature tubers are light purple in color.  Flowers are small and white and do not appear to produce pollen, although there are reports that S. maglia has been used as a male parent, so it must produce some.  The leaves of early growth tend to be simple, large and broad.  Later growth has more leaflets.

S. maglia might have been used as a food plant in the past and possibly even currently by the Araucarian natives of Chile.  Unfortunately, the evidence for this is not particularly clear.  It is possible that Chilotanum type potatoes have been mistaken for S. maglia.  The relatively high level of glycoalkaloids in this species should cast some doubt.

Both diploid and triploid populations exist, but triploids appear to be more common.  As is usually the case, the triploids are effectively sterile.  The triploids were presumably the result of the successful combination of a 2n and 1n gamete, which is normally a low probability event.  It is interesting that the triploids would become more common than the diploids, given the greater reproductive flexibility of the diploids.

Spooner (2012) evaluated S. maglia to determine whether it might be a progenitor of the Chilotanum group of potatoes and declared the evidence inconclusive.  Genetically, it groups with Chilotanum potatoes, so it probably has played at least a small role in the evolution of Chilotanum.  They also noted that the allelic diversity of the tested accessions probably indicated self-compatibility.  My experience has been that S. maglia produces no pollen, but perhaps it does under the proper circumstances. 

Volkov (2003) suggests that S. maglia may have originated as an allotriploid by the combination of S. microdontum and S. acaule or a closely related species.  It isn’t clear how this idea accounts for the presence of diploid populations.

Unfortunately, S. maglia appears to have little genetic diversity remaining.  There are few populations in the wild and most are triploid and sterile.

Weinheimer (1966) found that S. maglia was a particularly effective rootstock for forcing flower production in the variety Russet Burbank.  It produced more flowers and berries than other rootstocks tested.

S. maglia has A type cytoplasm (Hosaka 1986), which I find extremely interesting considering that the only other group with that type is tetraploid Andean potatoes.  Even though they are geographically discontiguous, that would seem to suggest that S. maglia either once had a range that overlapped with andigena potatoes or resulted from an early cross with a wild species after andigena potatoes were introduced to lowland Chile.

There are several companies offering seeds of this species for sale.  I have grown out the seeds from two sellers and got plants that appeared to be Solanum nigrum, which is not a species of potato.  Because there is only one diploid clone of this species available, it is unlikely that anyone is able to produce seeds in North America.  Buyer beware.


Condition Type Level of Resistance Source
Globodera pallida (Pale Cyst Nematode) Invertebrate Not resistant Bachmann-Pfabe 2019
Phytophthora infestans (Late Blight) Fungus Not resistant Bachmann-Pfabe 2019
Potato Virus A (PVA)   Moderate Webb 1961
Potato Virus X (PVX)   Moderate Webb 1961

Glykoalkaloid content

S. maglia contains solanine and chaconine, just as do common domesticated potatoes.  Distl (2009) found a level of 144 mg/100g for this species, which puts it far outside the safe zone for edibility.   Johns (1990) listed a level of 56mg/100g, but the accession tested was later reclassified as S. tuberosum.


Plant of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia emerging
Flower of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia flower
Aerial plant of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia plant
Tubers of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia tubers
Berries of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia berries
Tubers of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia tubers
Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid potato cross
S. maglia x 2x S. tuberosum seedling
Seedlings of Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid crosses
S. maglia x diploid Andigenum seedlings
Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid potato hybrid
S. maglia x 2x Andigenum hybrid
Cut S. maglia berry
Cut S. maglia berry
Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid hybrid
S. maglia x domesticated diploid
Flower buds on Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid hybrid
S. maglia x domesticated diploid flower buds
Aerial plants of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia plants
Leaf of the wild potato species Solanum maglia
Solanum maglia leaf
Flower buds on a Solanum maglia x domesticated diploid hybrid
S. maglia x diploid hybrid flower buds


Solanum maglia grows along the Chilean coast, where the climate is cool and foggy, but not necessarily high in precipitation.  Accounts about the drought tolerance of this species vary.  It grows well with drip irrigation.

Even the diploid collections of this species are poor pollen producers (Brucher 1990), so seed production may be difficult.


It isn’t clear how much this species has been used in breeding.  There are quite a few papers from the 1920s and earlier that mention crosses between the domesticated potato and S. maglia, but it appears that S. maglia was commonly confused with Chilean domesticated potatoes.

Crosses with S. tuberosum

I have found it pretty easy to cross domesticated diploids to S. maglia.  Most crosses result in berries with 10 to 20 seeds.  The seeds have germinated at 80% or better.  Unfortunately, many of the seedlings have lacked vigor and died before forming true leaves.  It seems that a lot of the seedlings may suffer from hybrid necrosis.

Sutton (1909) described making hundreds of crosses of S. tuberosum to S. maglia before obtaining a single hybrid.  Presumably the S. tuberosum pollinator was tetraploid in this case.

Luther Burbank (1915) crossed a plant that he described as S. maglia with S. tuberosum, producing a plant he described as a “pomato,” which produced large tomato-like edible fruits.  His description is not consistent with S. maglia and may have just been Chilean S. tuberosum.

Female Male Berry Set Seed Set Germination Ploidy Source
S. maglia
S. tuberosum (2x)
Moderate Low High    
S. maglia S. tuberosum (4x?)
Very low Very low Yes   Sutton 1898

Crosses with other species

The cultivar Craig’s Bounty, developed in the 1940s includes a S. maglia x S. demissum cross in its pedigree.

Female Male Berry Set Seed Set Germination Ploidy Source
S. maglia S. kurtzianum Low Low     Ispizua 1999
S. kurtzianum S. maglia Low Low     Ispizua 1999


Solanum maglia at Solanaceae Source

Solanum maglia at GRIN Taxonomy


3 thoughts on “Solanum maglia

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    Eric E. Barnes says:

    Are there any tricks to getting S. maglia to break dormancy? Beautiful tubers, practically flawless but no shoots. Any ideas would be great. PS All the seed and tubers I’ve purchased from you have been great.

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      bill says:

      The last batch was harvested in May, so they should be ready to come out of dormancy soon. If you can pot them in a warm spot, that should help to speed things along.

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        Eric E. Barnes says:

        Thanks as usual I’m suffering from a lack of patience. Good to know that’s it. The tubers are in perfect condition.

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