After almost a year in the herbarium and lab, I am ready for the wide-open spaces of field work again! This year I go (without Tiina, who is getting organised for another Peruvian adventure and for her new job in Edinburgh) to Argentina again to collect nightshades with my colleagues from Cordoba - Gloria Barboza and Franco Chiarini. This year we go south to Argentine Patagonia - in search of the rare and endemic nightshade genera Combera and Pantacantha, both of which only occur in the region. We have received funding both from the Museum and from the Argentine National Science Foundation's Pedersen Fund for collecting, so its a real joint effort. I'll also visit another colleague in Mendoza - Iris Peralta, who worked at the Museum in 2001 on the tomato monograph with me. It will be great to see everyone again, and to find some new and exciting plants!
Franco has mapped out some collecting localities - and sent me the route all mapped out in Google Earth - its an epic journey - each day is ina different colour - a real road trip in the making! We will go down the coast and back to Cordoba through the Andes.......
The tiny white typing is the localities for collecting particular plants - I have never seem many of these Patagonian endemics in the flesh before, so going to places where others have seen them is a good start. I'm sure we will find new populations and see new things though - we always do. I am in the Museum this weekend getting all the bags and envelopes together for collecting - Patagonia is a long way from anywhere and we don't want to run out of supplies for sampling.
When I looked at the distribution of Solanum collections in the Solanaceae Source database we have been building up over the last few years Patagonia is a real hole - so any Solanum we collect will be a great addition; they are not as common in southern Argentina as in Peru or northern Argentina, but they must be there.... I am sure of it!!
See the hole just above this place? All that database entry is really starting to pay off now - we can see where we need to either collect more, or add georeference points to our database......
The Patagonian endemics are small scrubby plants - I am especially looking forward to seeing the bizarre Petunia patagonica in the wild - I am sure it is not a Petunia, but am not quite sure what genus it belongs to really - seeing it in the wild and collecting some leaves for molecular analysis will help us to place it in the nightshade family tree, so watch this space!
Here is Petunia patagonica growing in the Apline House at Kew - its a sticky little shrublet about the size of a basketball - the flowers are about 1 cm long and very oddly patterned - can't wait to see it in its native habitat!!
I leave for Cordoba on Wednesday - so its all a bit of a rush to get ready to go, but the permits to collect are all sorted, even for the national parks. This is the most important aspect of getting ready for a field trip - and sometimes the most difficult. I'm lucky to have such great colleagues in Argentina who help with all the necessities of this part of the work.
Next post - from Argentina!!