I ought to be fined for waiting so long to write about this species. Or at least given a demerit! Ruellia ochroleuca is one of my true loves. Like all the other species, it comes with a true story.
I first learned of Ruellia standleyi (not a typo, I’m talking about Standley’s Ruellia) as a graduate student. It is a beautiful and unique species with tiny pale, yellow flowers that inhabits mesic, montane forests of Costa Rica and Guatemala. I laid eyes on it during my first field trip to Costa Rica, in 2005.
About that same time, I had been sequencing a bunch of crap from Brazil that I knew next to nothing about. Woke up one spring morning, made coffee in the Manos lab as I always did (yes, I measure my life in coffee spoons), and saw the results: Ruellia standleyi from Costa Rica/Guatemala was, in a phylogeny of 171 species, sister to Ruellia ochroleuca from the Atlantic Forests of Brazil.
I promptly went to check my specimens and the types of both names. They were identical. I managed to keep my coffee in the cup amongst large measures of excitement at a wide disjunction between the wet forests of Central America and coastal Brazil.
Long story short (hey – I’m trying): in 2012, Lucinda and I wrote a manuscript sinking Ruellia standleyi into Ruellia ochroleuca (the latter has priority and, fortunately, has a much better epithet). In August of 2016, some 14 years after I first started studying Ruellia one cold wintery day in downtown Philadelphia, I finally experienced Ruellia ochroleuca in the field. I can confirm that it indeed is conspecific with (or nearly so… with a modicum of molecular divergence) the former Ruellia standleyi. Sorry Standley.
Ruellia ochroleuca is one of many members of the Ruellia inundata clade that I have been dying to study from a corolla color evolution perspective. We now have near complete sampling of this lineage in hand and are primed for the work. Just need to find time!
Wild collected, Brazil, Erin Tripp #5897 w/ Nico Medina, Cíntia Kameyama (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp & Cíntia Kameyama