Georgia Lichen Fieldwork (Jan 2019)….Continued


First – entropy of our lab continues. It was so clean on that first morning. Oh well.

Second – we estimate that we have spent a cumulative 37 hours clipping PoD (“Potential of Diversity”… a metric we invented… sorry, ecololgists!) toothbrush bristles into sterile bags, and from there emptying bristles into sterile 1.5 uL microtubes. Sometimes it is best not to think about how those hours could have instead been used (note: this doesn’t include an estimated 50 hours we have spent collecting these samples in the first place, in the field).

Over just a few field days, James and I have already collected a thousand new voucher specimens (as in, actual museum vouchers… not dust/propagules on toothbrushes!). We have returned some great stuff – and there is plenty more to come!

Amongst the photos: a Thin Layer Chromatography plate showing chemistry of 25 of my collections…. lichen compounds are needed to identify these organisms to species; an ascus (with 8 spores; can’t remember why? google meiosis!) of Pertusaria propinqua… taken thru my microscope; toothbrushes covered in lichen propagules, in ziplocs/bondage; frozen leaves of Rhododendron catawbiense on the frozen summit of Blood Mtn, where I wanted to die on account of numbness and for lack of any finger mobility whatsoever (you know it is BAD NEWS when Rhodo leaves fold like that!); Parmotrema mellissii under UV light, showing a UV+ reaction indicative of the presence of alectoronic acid; some paper bags of a couple of our plots, showing the raw locality data; the DINGO (aka: PoD window); James and Erin having a field day!

Georgia Lichen Times!



Colleague James Lendemer and I landed in the mtns of north Georgia late last night – 3 January 2019. Today, the 4th, despite torrential rains throughout the day today, we managed to finish “Master Plot 105”… that marks our 105th 1-hectare lichen inventory plot on this NSF-funded “Dimensions of Biodiversity” research grant that seeks to understand the causes and correlates of abiotic and biotic factors that limit (or facilitate… are you an optimist? I mean, why not be?) the distributions of biodiversity. We feel we are making good progress… standby for results!

What are we doing with those sterile (kosher!) toothbrushes and 4×4 teal windows (affectionately, our “dingo”)? Scrubbing rocks and trees and sampling their ‘dust’, effectively capturing lichen spores/propagules present in the environment, sequencing these samples, and attempting to thereby detect the presence or absence of all the symbionts in a given 1-ha plot. In other words: if lichen species A isn’t present at a site, is it because the site is lacking one or more of its obligate symbiotic partners? Hence the biotic constraints that limit (or facilitate) the distributions of biodiversity…

Need to see a titillating video of how these samples get processed?

(Our ever present traveling laboratory prior to the processing of our first collection…. up early at 3:30am to get started… look how clean it is!! … not for long!)

In the Jocassee Gorges to our east, Whitewater Gorge specifically received an excess of 130 inches of rain as of the closing of 2018. Those gorges are home to more populations of filmy ferns than all other counties in the USA combined. And people question the legitimacy of the southern Apps as a temperate rainforest! Lucy Braun dubbed these forests the climax of the eastern temperate hardwood forest for a reason. 

We concur. And marvel at the many unknowns… the many mysteries… still to discover in this temperate wonderland..



Having a lot of tepui nostalgia lately… and was recently asked by some students about my experiences during our four botanical expeditions to the (four) highest summits on the Guyana side of this formation – Ayanganna, Wokomung, Maringma, and Kamakusa Tepui — most of which had never before been summited nor collected, botanically. So I thought I would post a few photos here…

Ruellia tarapotana


Thanks to a new friend and colleague who is studying Acanths of Junín, Peru–Rosa María Villanueva Espinoza–I have finally laid eyes on flowering material of Ruellia tarapotana after all these years of not really having a clear idea of what this species look like.

One can, after all, conjure all kinds of 3-dimensional forms for a species based on herbarium material, but unless you are Bobbie Angell or Alice Tangerini, one usually fails at this sort of approximation.

In the protologue, Lindau (1904) describes this species as having glabrous leaves 12-18 cm long, violet flowers arranged in an apical manner forming a spike-head like inflorescence, and corolla tubes ca. 40 mm long. It fits!

Fairly confident I have seen and collected sterile material of R. tarapotana in the wild (near Aguaytía, Peru), but this is my first sighting of it with flowers, so huge thanks to Rosa for kindly sharing her report!

This species is phylogenetically most likely closely related to a group of wet, lowland Amazonian species including R. cuyabensis, R. lasiostachya, and R. terminale. Just a guess. Wait for it.

Wild Collected, La Génova Farm, 1161 m, Rosa María Villanueva #160, Photos by R. Villanueva.

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

Reese Beeler

Tripp Lab Website Pic of Reese

Reese grew up in Boulder county, got his undergraduate degree at CU Boulder with a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and is still here at CU now as a graduate student. Given the diversity of ecosystems within the state’s gradient of elevations, from the short grass prairies of the Great Plains all the way up to arctic/alpine communities on mountaintops, it has certainly been hard to leave this wonderful area. His graduate studies are also still within the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, with a focus on plant evolutionary biology, systematics and genomics. Specifically he aims to investigate the evolutionary history of blueberries and their relatives (genus Vaccinium) from a genomic standpoint. Blueberries and co. tend to exhibit high levels of genetic exchange across species boundaries (i.e. hybridization and introgression) and this has obscured understanding of their evolution in the past. However, genomics has the potential to resolve these issues and open up many possibilities! When he is not working towards his degree or TAing classes, Reese enjoys hiking around the woods and mountains of Colorado, rock climbing, and spending time with his family.

Recently, his graduate student career just began in the fall of 2017 and it has been great to become immersed in the lively yet rigorous graduate culture here at CU. He is currently working on drafting a manuscript evaluating the presence and patterns of introgression between a few species of western North American bilberries (Vaccinium section Myrtillus).