Scientists have dubbed the new Australian plant species “solanum watney” after Mark Watney, the fictional astronaut who gets stranded on Mars and uses the planet’s soil to grow potatoes to survive until he can be rescued.
Chris Martine, the lead author of the research published Thursday in in the journal PhytoKeys, said the honor was deserved due to the rare role botanists play as heroes in pop culture. “We botanists often feel like underdogs, to be perfectly honest,” said Martine, an associate professor of biology at Bucknell University. “Scientist heroes are already unusual in Hollywood, but a space-deserted protagonist who studies plants as a profession is something extraordinary.”
The plant Damon’s character grows on the red planet is a member of the same genus as the newly discovered flower, which thrives in red soil in its native habitat, researchers said. And in real life, Martian soil has the nutrients plants would need to survive, according to NASA.