Every species has a story, and some are easier to learn than others. Somewhere along the 8+ million year history of the lineage that gave rise to Ruellia salviifolius was the evolution of ternate leaves that smell strongly of mint. Just like the bedtime stories you grew up with, in a land far, far away, but written over a much, much longer period of time.
We found this species once and only once during our August 2016 fieldtrip… one of the best months of my life. Where does it ‘go’ phylogenetically? Well, in a clade with its purple-flowered pal, Ruellia incomta, naturally. And a few others, too. Ancestral state reconstructions on our full cerrado dataset will tell if indeed it is plausible that Ruellia verbasicformis, a most remarkable bat-pollinated species with enormous yellow flowers, gave rise to this minty, ternate, red-flowered species….
Wild collected, Brazil, E. Tripp #5925 w/ Nico Medina & Cintia Kameyama (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp