Peru was tough. Really tough. Don’t ask me to recall it. As I’ve written before, somewhere strewn across these species pages, I mean it in earnest: I’m not sure how Nico and I survived. But we did, and part of the story I get to tell these years later is having found Ruellia spectabilis in the wild. Somewhere 7 degrees south of the Equator, around 1200m elevation, growing on the ‘outskirts’ of the ‘community’ of Hornopampa, we found the most beautiful population of this species. The approach had been from Leymebamba on one of the most trecherous roads I’ve ever traversed. At the time, I wanted so badly for it to be over, and if I ever have to see that road again, it will be: too soon. West of Río Marañon was okay, but east of it…. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Don’t get me wrong: the scenery was great. And, to be sure, it is to this day still enjoying one of the best views in Peru.
We collected the plant with small children running around the dirt road, and elderly grandmothers looking strangely at us, wondering why two young adults were so interested in their local flowers. We spent a good hour studying the population, then headed out of the community… towards Celedín…one of the longest day trips of my life.
This species has the most spectacular, large, poofy, purple flowers. If I didn’t know better, I would have guessed it was a Barleria! Ruellia spectabilis is, alas, instead closely related to cerrado-type Ruellias including R. hookeriana, R. geminiflora, R. donnell-smithii, R. geminiflora, R. bulbifera, and R. bahiensis.
Wild collected, Peru, E. Tripp #6804 & 6805 w/ Nico Medina (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp