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Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica

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The Cutting Edge

Volume XX, Number 3, July 2013

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

JORGE LEÓN ARGUEDAS (9 December 1916–5 June 2013).  Jorge León, the most distinguished figure in Costa Rican botany during the latter half of the 20th Century, has passed on, having attained 96 years of age.  His health had been deteriorating for the past year and a half.  Don Jorge was born in the town of Barva, just north of Heredia.  He began his professional career as a schoolteacher in Juan Viñas (west of Turrialba) and San José, and in 1947 accepted a post at the Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agrícolas (IICA) in Turrialba.  In 1953, Don Jorge completed a Ph.D. degree at Washington University in St. Louis, becoming the first Costa Rican (as far as we know) to obtain a doctorate specifically in systematic botany.  His doctoral research, a landmark revision of the Central American and West Indian spp. of the large and complex genus Inga (Fabaceae), was published by the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1966.  By that time, Don Jorge had long since returned to IICA, which later became the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE); he would eventually retire there, as a high-ranking member of the administrative hierarchy.  Don Jorge was author or co-author of several important books on topics including Costa Rican geography, the botany of tropical crop plants, and common names of Costa Rican plants.  His ethnobotanical expertise was honed during a six-year residence in Peru, in the 1960s, while working for IICA.  In his later years, Don Jorge became a founding member of INBio and served for many years on the board of directors of that institution, providing sound judgment and critical guidance.  He was a lifelong mentor to Manual co-PI Nelson Zamora, who has himself specialized in Inga and dedicated a sp. (Inga leonis N. Zamora) to Don Jorge.  A kind, humble, and soft-spoken gentleman, Jorge León has left an indelible imprint on Costa Rican science.

Much of the foregoing paragraph was abstracted from an article written by our friend Luko Hilje Quirós for the Costa Rican Web periodical El País.

ROY W. LENT (21 November 1931–12 October 2012).  We learned belatedly that Roy Lent had passed away from cancer in Escazú, Costa Rica, last Fall, at the age of 80.  Roy’s name is well-known to all who have worked on Costa Rican floristics due to his many important plant collections.  Roy arrived in the Costa Rica during the 1960s as a student from the University of Oklahoma, and never went back.  He collected plants in Costa Rica mainly during the period 1964–1977, and also gathered a handful of specimens from Honduras (where he met his wife), Mexico, and Panama.  Although he was not a “numbers” collector, apparently never attaining the 5000 milestone, Roy explored many rich areas, then practically unknown, making critical collections that yielded numerous new records and taxa.  He was, for example, one of the first botanists to visit what is now Parque Nacional Tapantí.  We can account for at least nine spp., in a disparate assortment of genera (Anthurium, Blakea, Castilleja, Cestrum, Elleanthus, Monstera, Ocotea, Philodendron, and Phoradendron), with epithets honoring Roy Lent, and surely there will be others to come.  As far as we can recall, we last saw Roy on 26 October, 2004, during the presentation ceremony for the first three Manual volumes at the Museo Nacional [see The Cutting Edge 12(1): 1, Jan. 2005].  Our hearts go out to his wife, Margarita, and their two sons (one living in Costa Rica and the other in Houston).

PASSAGES.  The end appears near for INBio, at least as we have known it.  Our Manual staffers have severed their administrative relationship with INBio, and we may soon be looking elsewhere for office space.  Pink slips were recently issued to botany curator (and Manual stalwart) Francisco Morales, botany department head Frank González, and herbarium assistant Isabel Pérez, leaving Manual co-PI Nelson Zamora as the last person standing in the botany department (apart from several excellent volunteers, including retired botanist Ted Bradley).  We understand that the institution will phase out pure biological research and focus entirely on “conservation,” which in this case probably means environmental-impact reports and landscaping contracts.  The fate of the collections is still up in the air.

CHICO ON THE MOVE.  Then INBio curator (see previous paragraph) Francisco Morales spent a week at NY in May, revising some papers and refining details for his future Ph.D. thesis.  Work toward the latter will be undertaken under the supervision of Sigrid Liede-Schumann at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, where Chico will travel in September.  His research, bankrolled by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD, i.e., Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst), will result in a monograph of the genus Prestonia (Apocynaceae), together with phylogenetic studies of Prestonia and the tribe Echiteae (which also includes such genera as Echites, Fernaldia, Macropharynx, and Peltastes).  Chico will be greatly missed, and we wish him the best of luck.  No one is more deserving of a Ph.D. in systematic botany!

VISITOR TO MO.  Daniel G. Debouck, leader of the Genetic Resources Program of the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia, and international authority on the genus Phaseolus (Fabaceae) [see, e.g., The Cutting Edge 10(4): 6, Oct. 2003], stopped by for a week in mid-June to study MO’s material of his favorite taxon.  Daniel was particularly interested in a putative new sp. from Costa Rica.


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