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Volume XVIII, Number 2, April 2011
News and Notes | Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature |
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Elytrostachys clavigera McClure (Poaceae), which came into flower in Costa Rica on 22 February—apparently for the first time in ca. 33 years—gets the nod this quarter for our featured plant. The photos and entire report, translated here from the original Spanish, are thanks to our former INBio colleague José González, now at the Estación Biológica La Selva.
These plants (vouchered by J. González 11335, LSCR) were found in flower at La Selva, near the 400 m mark along the Research Trail South. The following is a brief investigation into the phenological history of the sp., based primarily on Internet databases (TROPICOS) and published works, particularly Flora costaricensis and the Manual.
- The first Costa Rican specimens date from the period 1891–95, and are reported to be in fruit.
- The late Poaceae specialist Richard W. Pohl (ISC) was the first botanist to collect this sp. in flower in Costa Rica, at Bijagua de Upala, in 1978 and 1979. Pohl also made the first known collections (sterile) from La Selva, in 1974.
- Besides Pohl, various other botanists have collected the sp. in sterile condition at La Selva over the years, in 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, and 2003.
- The data suggest that the plants of Elytrostachys clavigera now in flower may be responding to a flowering cycle of 33 years. This is normal, as bamboos are known to have flowering cycles that oscillate between 15 and 150 years. After flowering, plants of such spp. usually die back, be it the entire plant or only the fertile stems. Such spp. that die after flowering and fruiting are called "hapaxanthic" or "monocarpic." More information about this interesting periodicity, known in numerous spp. of plants (not only grasses) and thought to be a strategy of "predator satiation," can be found in a curious article by Stephen Jay Gould at:
- In addition to the above, records were also found from Nicaragua (1979, in flower, and 2005, in fruit) and Panama (1994, in flower).