Ruellia erythropus

For several years (5 to be precise), Manuel and I had on hand collection #514. We made this collection in the dry forests of Lara. It was the crappiest of specimens – only the tiniest quantity of material available for vouchering. We did so, but couldn’t put a name on it. It perplexed us to no end. We finally gave up. We wrote the treatment (“Venezuelan Ruellia: A Monograph) and sunk this one into the undetermined collections section. Incredibly unsatisfying. Haunts the taxonomist at the oddest hours. We submitted the treatment. It came back with favorable reviews. We began putting final touches on the work, still lacking resolution on the identity of #514….

Finally, just before resubmitting and sending the treatment to print, I came upon the answer. Woke up one snowy Saturday morning thinking about Ruellia erythropus… a species I had seen only in herbaria. I checked the type. I checked the protologue. I checked our photographs. Five years later, the mystery was solved.

Ruellia erythropus is a wonderful species for so many other reasons other than an excellent start to a snowstorm. It is one of the very few species within the entire genus with a 3-parted calyx and capsules that have fracturing placenta (yep – as cool as it sounds… sort of like plants doing gymnastics; see Tripp 2007; McDade & Tripp 2008; Tripp et al. 2009).

Wild Collected and fondly remembered, Venezuela, Tripp & Lújan #514 (RSA); Photo by Erin Tripp

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