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Tropical botany researcher

3 Posts tagged with the solanaceae tag

Back at INBio Herbarium

Posted by Alex Monro Feb 22, 2012

We arrived back at INBio and our dormitory last night, a little euphoric, very tired and having feasted at Taco Bell! Today we had a very interesting meeting with the Director of INBio, Carlos Hernández and later lunch with the vice rectors of the University of Costa Rica and the Universidad Estatal a Distancia (Costa Rica's and Latin Americas's biggest equivalent of the Open University) to talk about a training course Neil Brummit and I are giving tomorrow on Species Conservation Assessments.


This is Neil's main area of work and my role will be mainly to translate from English into Spanish. There has been a lot of interest and we will be working with participants from Costa Rica's Conservation Areas Network (including National Parks), INBio, the University of Costa Rica and the Universidad Estatal a Distancia.


We were finally able to make it back to the herbarium to try and identify some of the 'mystery' plants we had collected. Top of the list for being striking was the dark flowered epiphyte in the potatoe family:




We were pretty sure it was in the genus Schultesianthus but could not remember ever having seen such a dark flowered species. Well, five minutes in the herbarium and we had located it! It is Schultesianthus crosbyanus, first collected in Panama in 1966, described in 1973 as in the genus Markea and moved to the genus Schultesianthus in 1995. Strangely, the only known locality for this species in Costa Rica was where we have just been collecting.





One hundred and three species

Posted by Alex Monro Feb 17, 2012

As I write this it is 16 February and we collected 103 species of vascular plants and we are exhausted, actually we were pretty tired to start with.


There is something a little annoying about waking up and getting dressed in 4°C when you are only 9° north of the equator. In fact our coordinates for today were 09°07’56.4”N, 082°57’30.4”W , not sure what that gives on Google Earth but here it is on Google Maps.


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Some of the more unusual plants were from the potatoe family, Solanaceae. Firstly we had a Schultesianthus, apparently bat-pollinated, with very dark purple flowers


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Next we collected a really interesting Cestrum, the leaves of which looked like a very common species whereas the flowers were quite distinct


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And then a really unusual looking but not uncommon species, Larnax sylvarum, again with dark purple flowers and orange Physalis-like fruits


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We got back to the hut just before dark; I hadn’t had a shower for a few days as the water is freezing but decided to make the effort for the sake of everyone else! I think I have just about recovered two hours later...


I have just published eight new species of shrub in the potato family, Solanaceae in the freely available journal Phytokeys. In the article I describe new species from the genus Cestrum from Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. Central America is one of the most densely populated and best explored parts of Latin America and it is amazing that even here we are still coming across new species. In this case most of the species were first collected years ago and had sat in plant collections unidentified since then. This is not an unusual phenomenon in botany (see this article published in 2010). In fact in the case of Cestrum about a third of the specimens in Musuem and Botanical Garden collections had never been identified! Cestrum is a genus of about 150 species of woody shrubs and small trees which occurr in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. They have beautiful trumpet shaped flowers which range in colour from purple, pink, yellow ornage or white and which can be very fragrant. You may know one species, Cestrum aurantiacum, which although not common can be seen in gardens across the UK and USA. One of the species (see below) was named after a close friend and colleague, Gill Stevens, who died last year after a long illness and so is of special importance to me.


Cestrum gilliae

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