Ruellia speciosa


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Ruellia speciosa is, true to its epithet, a beautiful species. And one of my favorites. I could probably write a short story about this one if commissioned (one can dream)… about watching for hours the hummingbirds fawn over it in a deep fissure on top of a mountain overlooking Ciudad Oaxaca…. about its wonderfully pungent odor…about the population mutants that produce the strangest internal floral accessory structures. Well, best just to read all about it in the (non-commissioned) taxonomic revision of Ruellia section Chiropterophila (Tripp 2010, Systematic Botany). I first (and only) saw this species alive, in the field, in the year 2005.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to Salvador Acosta for leading me to this population, which represents the only I’ve seen of this species alive in the field. I have searched and searched for many other populations, based on localities from historical herbarium records, but all such attempts were unsuccessful. It’s true and sad: Ruellia speciosa is a species that is far less common than it used to be….

Update as of January 2016: I returned to the above locality some 10 years after I first visited it. The population has now been extirpated from housing development. Not all stories have a happy ending.

Wild collected, Mexico, Tripp & Acosta 175 (DUKE); Photo by Erin Tripp.