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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

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The Cutting Edge

Volume XVII, Number 2, April 2010

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

MIGUEL ÁNGEL SOTO ARENAS (1963–2009). We have only now learned of the tragic death of Mexican orchidologist Miguel Ángel Soto Arenas, in his hometown of Torreón, Coahuila, late on the night of 27 August, 2009. While burning the midnight oil (as was his habit) in his own home, Miguel was murdered by an intruder, for reasons as yet unknown. He was just 46 years old (one source says 47, but we have done the math). In addition to his many other (and mostly much more ambitious) undertakings, Miguel was a contributor to the Manual —the first that we have lost. Unfortunately, we never had the pleasure of actually meeting him, since he was brought on board, as first author of the Vanilla treatment, by Manual Orchidaceae coordinator Robert L. Dressler. Because of this prescient maneuver, our Vanilla treatment was way ahead of its time, and congruent in every important detail with Miguel’s revision of the Mexican and Central American spp. of the genus, cited as "en prensa" in the Manual, and just published posthumously (see "Germane Literature," under "Soto Arenas"). A flurry of obituaries has recently appeared (see "Germane Literature," under "Hágsater" and "Pérez García"), and the latest issue of Lankesteriana is dedicated to the memory of Miguel. That is where his revision can be found, together with a paper on the infrageneric classification of Vanilla, as well as numerous papers by other authors dedicating a miscellany of new orchid spp. to the memory of Miguel Ángel Soto Arenas.

WINDY VISIT. INBio's Daniel Santamaría is in Chicago as we write this, in the midst of a ca. four-week stint at the Field Museum herbarium (F). His assignment is to gather additional information about native Central American economic plants, in conjunction with the recent collaborative publication Plantas comestibles de Centroamérica—already reviewed in this rag [see "Germane Literature" in The Cutting Edge 16(4), Oct. 2009; under "Ávila Solera"], though it is not yet available for sale. These latest efforts are geared toward the publication of distribution maps of said native spp., based on a wider specimen base. Knowing Daniel, we fully expect that he will find numerous country records for the Costa Rican flora, and other such leaps and bounds, while prowling the herbarium in his spare time.

CAPITAL OPPORTUNITY.  INBio herbarium manager Frank González has just returned from a six-week visit to Washington, DC, where he attended the Natural History Collections Management Training Program for Latin American and Caribbean Professionals, hosted by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. He tells us that it was an eye-opening and fruitful experience.

SAND AND FOAM.  Manual collaborator Francisco Morales (INB) traveled to Mexico City during 20–25 March, having been invited for the formal presentation of the latest Flora mesoamericana volume (see under "Davidse" in "Germane Literature").  Chico authored the treatment of Apocynaceae, the second-largest family in that volume (after Melastomataceae).  During the ceremonies, he delivered a half-hour talk entitled "El trabajo florístico y de revisión para la elaboración de tratamientos de la Flora mesoamericana," and also found time for herbarium work on Apocynaceae, Araliaceae, Sabiaceae, and Sapotaceae.

TO COSTA RICA THEY CAME (OR RETURNED). Colombian botanist Adriana Sánchez, a Ph.D. candidate at Wake Forest University, was in Costa Rica for three weeks (beginning 15 January) to collect material from several populations of Triplaris melaenodendron (Bertol.) Standl. & Steyerm. and the related genera Podopterus and Ruprechtia (Polygonaceae). Manual Picramniaceae, Simaroubaceae and Surianaceae contributor Silvana Martén, having just gotten her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland and studied, in part, under W. J. Kress (see below), returned to Costa Rica at the beginning of March, where she began almost immediately to teach classes at the Universidad de Costa Rica. Welcome home Silvana! Alex Monro (BM) has just spent 10 days collecting with Nelson Zamora, Daniel Solano and a few others (entomologists) from INBio at the Selva Bananito Lodge, near the base of Cerro Muchilla, on the Atlantic slope of the Cordillera de Talamanca (see "Leaps and Bounds," under "Lauraceae"). We know the area well [see eg., The Cutting Edge 15(3): 2, Jul. 2008], and are sure that further collecting there will reap many additional new records. This was yet another production of the Darwin Initiative [see The Cutting Edge 13(3): 2, Jul. 2006], through which Alex has mounted several expeditions into the Talamancas.

LAS CRUCES HOMAGE. A symposium entitled "Las Cruces discovered: a sampling of botanical, ecological and ethnomedicinal research" was held at OTS’s Estación Biológica Las Cruces on 27 February, in honor of Luis Diego Gómez Pignataro (1944–2009). Manual Heliconiaceae contributor W. J. (John) Kress (US) was the keynote speaker, presenting the very well-received talk "A coevolutionary mosaic of Heliconia-hummingbird pollination systems." John later spent a couple of days in the field out of San José with Manual co-PI Barry Hammel, catching a few needed Heliconia samples, and up on old times.

A SLEEPING GIANT AWAKENS. Volcán Turrialba—the second-highest volcano in Costa Rica after its more familiar westerly sister Volcán Irazú—has lately shown signs of activity for the first time since 1866. These signs were first noted a few years ago, in the form of rising temperatures and damage to vegetation near the crater rim. More recently (around the beginning of the current year), columns and clouds of steam have erupted, accompanied by ashfalls in the vicinity of San José (particularly about San Vicente de Moravia). The few families living near the summit have been evacuated. A live camera at the following site provides an updated image every 10 seconds (with the best views in the afternoon).


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