Ruellia pedunculosa

“We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, Of that wide water, inescapable. Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.”


The wild world has so many happenings that we will never see. From the commonest casual flock of pigeon, descending to darkness on extended wings, to another berry, ripening in the wilderness, we should be so lucky to see. In another life, Wallace Stevens might have included Ruellia pedunculosa in his poem. As I write this entry from my mountain house in wintery Colorado, I still can’t fathom we managed to find… and to study, this species in the wild.

I have been reading about Ruellia pedunculosa for nearly 15 years now, among various (historical) publications. On rare occasion, I have seen voucher specimens of it, collected from wild populations. As far as I can tell, it is a species known only to a few, very lucky people, only a couple of whom are still alive.

Ruellia pedunculosa is an endemic or near-endemic species to Peru, represented by fewer than 10 confirmed collections. We spent days planning and executing our strategy to be the next two lucky individuals. The 25th of January 2017 arrived. Nuevo Jerusalen. Centro Turistico Tioyacir. We were tired, had traveled hundreds of miles on terrible, dangerous roads, but under a dark, wet canopy of primary rainforest, our efforts ended in success. I laid eyes on the long, thin wispy peduncles of Ruellia pedunculosa in the wild.

Our recent RADseq data place this species in the Physiruellia clade, with strong support. In fact, we have pretty good evidence that it is sister to the clade of species containing Ruellia grisea, R. ischnopoda, and R. potamophila. This entire group is characterized by its wet-loving habitat preferences and its peduncles….beautiful, inescapable, unsponsored, and free.


Wild collected, Peru, E. Tripp #6802 w/ Nico Medina (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp

Ruellia adenostachya


Here is a terrific species that I knew almost nothing about and didn’t even have a name to put on it until Ulisses Fernandes commented on this webpage and identified it! Huge thanks to him for that!

Ruellia adenostachya is a species I knew absolutely nothing about prior to working in Brazil. It was described by Lindau (a man I should have liked to have coffee with) in 1898, based on material from “estrada do norte out da Canastra” in Goiás. The original material of this name lives at Paris, and that is just about all I had to reference, except for two collections that I made during our recent fieldtrip (E. Tripp et al. 5943 and E. Tripp & N. Medina 5964).

I am still trying to learn something meaningful about the history of this species. It is apparently known only from four collections, including the type, all of which are historical (pre 1900). How can that be? How can we have made two of the only modern voucher specimens of it? I don’t quite understand or believe this, and need to visit some Brazilian herbaria to embark on a search.

Time will tell. For now, I will merely comment that it is (1) highly distinctive, (2) lovely, and (3) does not appear to be exceptionally rare. The first collection (E. Tripp et al. 5943) derived from Reserva Natural Vagofogo in Goiás, which is where I also learned the remarkable Ruellia eurycodon for the first time in the cellulose. The second collection we made in Brazil (E. Tripp & N. Medina 5964) derived from Goiás State Hwy 241, between Formoso and Campinaçu.

Wild collected, Brazil, E. Tripp #5943 & 5964 w/ Nico Medina & Cintia Kameyama (COLO); Photos by Erin Tripp