Ruellia oaxacana

I first saw this species while doing some solo fieldwork in Mexico, at the terminus of an already dark and dreary day. The year: 2005. Not enough sunlight for profound thought or for photography. Nonetheless, I was convinced it was Ruellia metallica and that I was the first human ever to lay eyes on this species in Mexico. It was producing cleistogamous (closed) flowers only…. as sad as is dying of a mexican daylight.

[Time passes…a year later….]

Looking at my collection of this plant more carefully in the herbarium, it seems to consistently have more seeds per fruit and more slender fruits than does R. metallica (which is now affectionately known as R. terminale, thanks to yours truly & friends; see Tripp & McDade 2012, Brittonia). As it turns out, several other collections from this region of southern Mexico also fit this pattern! With some additional research, I decided that these southern Mexican plants should be attributed to Leonard’s infrequently used name, Ruellia oaxacana. Furthermore, this species turns out to be genetically distinct from R. terminale… a question likely to be posed in the next Republican primary.

[Time passes…. 10 years later….]

Yep – I’m still working on Ruellia. Somehow, she let’s me. I feel as lucky as I did on day one. I still remember the first Ruellia I ever saw in the cellulose. The limestone glades near Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. I could barely contain the joy. Still to this day, species number 97 or whatever it is, I can barely contain the joy.

Anyway, Manuel Luján, Amanda Fisher, and I had a most awesome fieldtrip throughout Chiapas and Oaxaca in January 2016. I saw this species again… for the 2nd time… alive and doing quite well. We were about 6.9 km E of the turnoff from Pochutla to Miahuatlán, headed towards Cafetal Concordia. Lovely area, it was. Ruellia oaxacana likes it dank and dark. This population was growing all around the banks of a perennial river and its waterfalls… both unnamed. The mountain’s name? Something about “Ovambo”. It was growing sympatrically with Ruellia stemonacanthoides, for the record. That information is potentially more important than immediately realized.

Just like the first time, the population (rather massive, actually) was reproducing only thru cleistogamous means. Don’t ask me why. I wish I understood the rules of assembly so that I could try them on myself…

Wild collected, Mexico, Tripp #189 (DUKE)

Wild collected, Mexico, Tripp et al. #5771 (COLO); Photo by Manuel Luján

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