Ruellia villosa

We found Ruellia villosa in a beautiful stretch of semi-deciduous forest in the vicinity of Piatã, en route to a series of mines. Sometimes, it’s the agencies that we think of as being the most destructive (mines, energy developments, military outposts) that actually preserve the best habitat, and this was certainly the case here.

Ruellia villosa is a small herb to ca. 1m that is decumbent and fond of growing on top of other plants (that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?). It is a bit on the dainty/feeble side, if I may. We found plants scrambling among the steepest slopes, in the rocks and clay, like so many of the others in the genus.

Ruellia villosa is slightly perplexing phylogenetically. It is likely sister to the lowland Amazonian Ruellia glischrocalyx (a species actively avoiding me in the field), and together, there is some evidence that these two may be sister to a large clade that contains both Brazilian and Mexican species of cerrado/savanna habitat (see Tripp & McDade 2014, Aliso).

Wild collected, Brazil, Erin Tripp #5915 w/ Nico Medina, Cíntia Kameyama (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp

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