Ruellia floribunda

This species, and my means of coming to know it, has a terrific story…. Just like all the others. 

Phase I: It first came to me in the form of seeds inside of fruits, and fruits inside of a #2 brown coin envelope, on one fine winter day in cold Colorado. The packet came courtesy of Stacey Smith, who left it on my office desk in Boulder. Picked ‘em up during a recent trip in Peru.

At this point in life, I’m pretty good at identifying Ruellias, sometimes even based only on miniscule fragments such as seeds. But it was the writing on the cover that sealed it. On the packet, Stacey wrote: “Santa Rosa de Quiva”.

I knew immediately that she had found one of the last remaining members of the Ruellia inundata clade that I had not yet seen or collected: Ruellia floribunda, it was. Remarkable! I had remembered the type locality (as described in the protologue of the species, written by Hooker in 1831 [!!]) from some much earlier day, perhaps grad school, because this was a species I have long wanted to see in the wild. There it lay in my hands, alive but in waiting, finally… after all these years. I sowed those seeds the same evening, and within a few months, first laid eyes on a mature, flowering plant of R. floribunda.

Phase II: Nico and I finally did fieldwork in Peru. 18 January 2017. We landed in Lima (he traveling from California, me traveling from fieldwork in Ecuador), and drove north towards Santa Rosa de Quiva. Found Ruellia floribunda flowering abundantly (as the name implies) in this very same location. We found it again later in the trip, near Maojdalema. Tolerates some of the most remarkably dry, western slopes of the Andes….hanging out there seemingly so happily in the rainshadow of that giant uplift. That trip, Peru 2017, would become one of the most insane, nightmarish, and barely outlived fieldtrips of my life. But, we did it. Whether I can muster the strength to tell the whole story of how we survived it, I don’t know. I’m glad Nico was with me…

In closing, and as if I haven’t said it already, the Ruellia inundata clade is arguably my most favorite clade within Ruellia (well, after sect. Chiropterophila, and after the eastern North American clade, and after the three remarkable cerrado clades, and after all the others…). In it are the following species (and growing….):

  1. galeottii (purple, Mexico) R. inundata (pink, widespread)
  2. paniculata (purple, widespread)
  3. floribunda (pink, Peru)
  4. asperula (red, Brazil) R. ochroleuca (yellow, Brazil & Central America)
  5. cearensis (pink, Brazil) R. sp. nov. ET #5908 (purple, Brazil)


Wild collected, Peru, E. Tripp #5918 & 6806 w/ Nico Medina (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp

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