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

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