Ruellia speciosa

Ruellia speciosa is, true to its epithet, a beautiful species. And one of my favorites. I could probably write a short story about this one if commissioned (one can dream)… about watching for hours the hummingbirds fawn over it in a deep fissure on top of a mountain overlooking Ciudad Oaxaca…. about its wonderfully pungent odor…about the population mutants that produce the strangest internal floral accessory structures. Well, best just to read all about it in the (non-commissioned) taxonomic revision of Ruellia section Chiropterophila (Tripp 2010, Systematic Botany). You can also read all about it (soon) in two recent genomic works on the species, one of which is a whole nuclear reference genome. Both: Yongbin Zhuang (most awesome postdoc) & Erin Tripp, in press.

I first (and only ever) saw this species alive, in the field, in the year 2005. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Salvador Acosta for leading me to this population. I have searched and searched for many other populations, based on localities from historical herbarium records, but all such attempts were unsuccessful.

It’s true and sad: Ruellia speciosa is a species that is far less common than it used to be….

Update (Jan 2016): Manuel, Amanda, and I returned to the above locality some 10 years after I first visited it. The population has now been extirpated from housing development. Not all stories have a happy ending.

“What falls away is always. And is near. God bless the ground! I shall walk softly there.”

Wild collected, Mexico, Tripp & Acosta #175 (DUKE); Photo by Erin Tripp

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