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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

Main | Family List (MO) | Family List (INBio) | Cutting Edge
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The Cutting Edge

Volume XV, Number 1, January 2008

News and Notes | Leaps and Bounds | Germane Literature | Season's Pick | Annotate your copy

DELUGE AT USJ.  Disaster struck the USJ herbarium on 26 November when an entire half of the Escuela de Biología building at the Universidad de Costa Rica was flooded by a broken water line.  We first learned of this in an e-mail dated 12 December from USJ director Carlos O. Morales.  As related by Carlos, the consequences for the herbarium were dire, requiring two full weeks of intensive labor (including weekends), involving five dehumidifiers and two large air-conditioning units.  Despite this heroic effort, some material, which had been wet for more than a week, was subsequently attacked by fungi (Boraginaceae and Brassicaceae suffering most acutely).  Happily, Carlos reports that even this material was salvaged, via an ad hoc procedure to be fully divulged at a later date, but which evidently involved treatment with 95% alcohol followed by 24 hours in the plant dryer.  But this was only the first stage of a costly one- or two-year restoration process that will require the replacement of hundreds of folders and the painstaking demounting of damaged specimens, followed by their remounting on new sheets.  Carlos expresses his gratitude to everyone who participated in these valiant efforts, intent on saving everything and unwilling to settle for saving merely as much as possible.

CHEILANTHOID ESCAPE.  On 3 January, Manual co-PI Barry Hammel accompanied Amanda Grusz and Carl Rothfels (both of DUKE) and Sachi Gibson (DAL), students arriving early for Robbin Moran’s (NY) OTS fern course, on part of their pre-course search for cheilanthoid ferns (Pteridaceae), of particular interest to Amanda and Carl.  Previous trips to an officially unnamed limestone bluff (known to botanical insiders as “Heartbreak Ridge”) just west of Cerro Caraigres had convinced us that the site was bound to yield at least a few intriguing cheilanthoids.  Indeed, after five additional days of collecting, including the Volcanes de Irazú and Turrialba and various areas on the Península de Nicoya, the students anointed “Heartbreak Ridge” their most rewarding locale.  Hammel’s harvest was unspectacular, compared with previous visits, a few in situ photos of the rare Salvia lasiantha (see under "Season’s Pick") being most noteworthy.  The trip took place deep in the dry season, on one of the windiest days in recent memory in Costa Rica; Hammel lost his favorite cap (it hovered and bounced, momentarily, high above the vegetation, as a kite on a string, then flew off in the unseen distance) and dared not explore his favorite steep slope, on the windward side of the ridge.

DARWIN INITIATIVE FORGES ON.  The most recent Talamanca expedition under the auspices of the Darwin Initiative [see The Cutting Edge 13(3): 2, Jul. 2006] targeted a botanically fruitful area northwest of Fila Matama, apparently not explored during several previous inventories of the same general region, according to INBio project co-coordinator Alexánder Rodríguez.  The new discoveries have already begun to filter in (see “Leaps and Bounds,” under Melastomataceae).  The project was featured last May in an article in La Nación, Costa Rica’s most important newspaper, in which it was claimed that two new spp. of Pilea (Urticaceae) had been found:


CIEN MIL AND COUNTING.  Kudos are in order for veteran MO curator Thomas B. Croat, who attained the imponderable milestone of 100,000 collection numbers during his recent trip to Ecuador.  We don’t know exactly how many botanical collectors, living or dead, belong to this exclusive club (Paul Standley and Julian Steyermark spring to mind), but surely the number would be in single digits.  Tom’s achievement is all the more impressive when one considers that the family Araceae, his specialty, has accounted for a high percentage of his collections.  These generally weighty plants, bothersome to carry and to dry, also demand careful and extensive field-notes, for which Tom has gained some notoriety among MO’s data-entry team.  As if that were not enough, Tom is wont to take multiple photos of each specimen in the field, to prepare numerous duplicates, and to collect living material as well as DNA samples.  Furthermore, most of his numbers were obtained in a non-resident capacity, during highly intensive (and generally solitary!) collecting bouts in a wide array of foreign (mostly neotropical) countries from his base in St. Louis.  All of this quite boggles the mind, and we stand in collective awe of Tom’s singular accomplishment, the culmination of more than four decades of sustained and dedicated effort.  And he’s still going strong!  By the way, Croat 100000 is a new sp. of Anthurium (Araceae), specially reserved for the honor, while Croat 1 was a specimen of Leonotis nepetifolia (L.) R. Br. (Lamiaceae), collected in October, 1962, on St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands.

VISITORS TO MO.  Manual co-PI Nelson Zamora journeyed to MO for an important meeting in early November, and remained on board for another month, mostly working full-bore on his Fabaceae treatment for our next volume.  INBio curator Armando Soto arrived 12 November for a 10-day visit, working on Papaveraceae, Polygonaceae, and Solanaceae.  Close on Armando’s heels, in early December, followed CR botanists Alfredo Cascante and Joaquín Sánchez, for a two-week stay funded by “Proyecto Noruega” [see The Cutting Edge 13(4): 1, Oct. 2006].  Alfredo worked on Araceae (mainly Monstera) and his Manual treatment of Bombacaceae, while Joaquín worked mainly on Rubiaceae (with MO curator Charlotte M. Taylor) and his Manual treatments of Buddlejaceae and Gentianaceae (the heterotrophic taxa).  They left by train early one Sunday, during the worst snowstorm in seven years, bound for Chicago and New York, with additional herbarium work planned at NY.

CHICO ON THE PROWL.  October found INB curator Francisco Morales in Mexico, where he curated various families at MEXU and other herbaria and completed several papers.  Then, from 25 November–8 December, he worked in El Salvador, curating material at MHES and botanizing in Depto. Cabañas.  All of this was accomplished with funding from “Proyecto Noruega” (see foregoing entry).

SPOTTED AT MO’S FALL SYMPOSIUM.  In attendance were Manual contributors William R. Anderson (MICH; Malpighiaceae), Fred R. Barrie (F/MO; Myrtaceae, Valerianaceae), James S. Miller (NY; Boraginaceae), and Sir Ghillean T. Prance (Chrysobalanaceae, Dichapetalaceae), as well as Manual correspondent Mario Blanco (FLAS).


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