She asked if there were many known hybrids in the genus Ruellia. I quickly shrugged off her comment with an emphatic “NOPE”.
The forest stayed quiet for another 5 to 10 minutes while we searched for additional plants of the new, mysterious, pink-flowered species. It was the 14th of September, 2016. The three of us—myself, Manuel Luján (a regular Ruellia fieldwork offender), and Dina Clark (collection manager at the COLO Herbarium)—had landed in Bolivia the day before. I had never been to Bolivia, and knew next to nothing about it’s Ruellia diversity let alone how gracious the people were.
We arrived very very late on the 12th (Dina’s birthday), slept in, and drove as far as we could the next morning. That was the 13th. We crashed hard. By the morning of the 14th, we were somewhere in between Coroica and Challa, and ready to begin fieldwork. We rose around 5:30 AM, and two of us (I won’t mention names) went for brief jogs. Back and showered, we quickly hit the road by 7am only to discover, a mere 4 km from last night’s hotel: La Tranca. Bolivian spanish for a ‘barricade’. We arrived around 7:15am, but the sign said the road would be closed from 7am until 5pm. Needing to cover a lot of Bolivian territory over a few short weeks, damn, that hurt.
We kept a good attitude, and moseyed over to a local ditch, thinking not much of it. Immediately upon entering the secondary forest, we laid eyes on both Ruellia brevifolia and Ruellia puri. I was super excited to see both, even though they represent two relatively common Ruellias in South America….the first red-flowered and the second purple-flowered. Within 30 seconds of seeing both, we laid eyes on a miraculous, third, sympatric species. It had pink flowers, and I couldn’t fathom a name for it. I immediately declared that it must be new to science.
While we searched for additional plants of the new, mysterious, pink-flowered species, “she asked if there were many known hybrids in the genus Ruellia. I quickly shrugged off her comment with an emphatic NOPE.”
Boy, was I wrong. Huge thanks to Dina for opening my eyes and calling this like she saw it. It was a naturally occuring hybrid between Ruellia brevifolia and Ruellia puri. Looks to be new to sciences. Looks like it needs a name….
For the record, the very next day, we would discover la tranca #2. Low and behold, la tranca #2, near Caranavi, led us to yet another population of three sympatric Ruellias: R. brevifolia, R. puri, and you guessed it: Ruellia sp. nov. I think we should call it Ruellia tranca.
Wild collected, Bolivia, E. Tripp #5971 & 5977 w/ Manuel Luján & Dina Clark (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp