Botanists Travel Briefs

Field work furthers RSABG scientific and student research

McDade and Kiel in Costa Rica

Lucinda McDade, Judith B. Friend Director of Research and Professor and Chair of the Claremont Graduate University Botany Department at RSABG, and doctoral candidate Carrie Kiel traveled to Costa Rica in January to collect members of Acanthaceae.

Traveling throughout the country, they collected approximately 70 species of Acanthaceae [Acanthus Family], in particular the genera Justicia and Dicliptera, the focus of Kiel’s dissertation. Some of these species, for example J. deaurata and J. metallica, are narrow endemics or rare in Costa Rica. In addition to herbarium material, pickled collections were made of leaves and inflorescences (the complete flowering portion of the plant) for anatomical and morphological study. Leaf anatomy is not widely studied in Acanthaceae and inflorescence structure in Justicia is highly variable. The fixed material will be useful in exploring these understudied aspects of the genus.

Accompaning Kiel were McDade, Kiel's advisor and an expert on Acanthaceae, Barry Hammel of INBio [National Biodiversity Institute Costa Rica] and MOBOT [Missouri Botanical Garden], field biologist and an author of the "Flora of Costa Rica," and Reinaldo Aguilar, Costa Rican field biologist. Each played a valuable role to make this collection trip a success.

The work accomplished on this trip notes Kiel, “was necessary for both my dissertation and my contribution to the genus Justicia for the 'Flora of Costa Rica' in collaboration with Lucinda McDade.” Their fieldwork and travels were made possible with funding from the Torrey Botanical Society and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

Porter in Costa Rica

J. Mark Porter, RSABG research scientist and associate professor of botany at Claremont Graduate University, also travelled to Costa Rica early in 2012. Porter made the trip to study the genus Loeselia (Polemoniaceae or Phlox Family), supported by a National Science Foundation grant. His research was facilitated by Nelson Zamora, Ph.D., of the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica, who provided research facilities and helped with all of the permits.

Porter shares entries from his field journal:

"From Santo Domingo (just north of San Jose, the capitol) I traveled through the Central Valley to Colon and Santiago de Purisca, to find populations of the Costa Rican form of Loeselia glandulosa (a species that also occurs in southern Arizona). From the Central Valley, I made my way to the Nicoya Peninsula in search of Loeselia ciliata, crossing Puente la Amistad, at Rio Tempisque and the head of Golfo de Nicoya. While there was good fortune in finding populations of L. ciliata, we were even more privileged to find a new species of Loeselia near Santa Cruz. I looped northward to Liberia, around to Las Cañas and into the mountains to Laguna Arenal, a large lake spreading from the foot of Volcan Arenal, an active volcano, all the while collecting Loeselia. I continued through the mountains to Monteverde, the well-known tropical cloud-forest region and tourist destination. Below the cloud forests, in drier sites we found populations of L. glandulosa and at even lower elevations L. ciliata. Collections through this region have provided valuable insight into the diversity of these two complex species, changed my understanding of L. ciliata and L. glandulosa, as well as brought to light a new taxon in this genus."

Morawetz in Kenya

In Summer 2011, Jeffery Morawetz, RSABG postdoctoral fellow, was awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that enables him travel to Kenya in Africa to conduct research on “Systematic Investigation of Tropical Diversity in Orobanchaceae.”

RSABG Research Associate Clyde Calvin, Ph.D., and Carrie Kiel, doctoral student in the CGU Botany Program at RSABG, will join Morawetz for the Spring 2012 African trip for field research. The botanists departed for Kenya mid-March.

“I'm going to Kenya to collect root parasites in the family Orobanchaceae," says Morawetz. "There are many interesting and poorly known genera in Kenya. And I'm hoping to document one genus as being parasitic for the first time. It used to be classified in an obscure family until my dissertation work showed it in Orobanchaceae [Broom Rape Family]; it's parasitic nature was speculated upon, but it has not been shown conclusively yet.

"All of us are going to collect along the coast, and we'll hopefully get to go north to the Isiolo area together before Carrie and Clyde leave. After that I'm going to take a trip to western Kenya. We will be based at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi where the East African Herbarium is housed. I've known my colleagues there since my first trip to Kenya in 2005 (this will be my third trip to Kenya, my 11th trip to Africa).”

Calvin is traveling to Kenya to collect Loranthaceae and Viscaceae (two of the five mistletoe families). Mistletoes are branch parasites and are particularly diverse and abundant in East Africa.

"For the Loranthaceae, I will collect specimens and leaf samples of six genera," says Calvin. "These materials will complement the extensive haustoria collection that Carol [Clyde’s collaborator, Carol A. Wilson, Ph.D.] and I have from the region. Further, these collections will contribute to our studies on the phylogeny of Loranthaceae that have X = 9 chromosomes, the origin of branch parasitism and haustorial evolution across the African continent and its diverse habitats. Our current interest in Viscaceae is focused on epiparasitic mistletoes (species that grow only as epiparasites on another mistletoe), which are usually a member of the Loranthaceae. In Kenya there are two or three Viscum species that occur as epiparasites. A final, important reason for the trip is that several botanists have voiced concern about the decreasing number of mistletoe in the wild and the effects of this trend on lepidoptera [butterflies and moths] and bird populations. A colleague I will visit with in Kenya is particularly interested in and familiar with mistletoe declines in Africa.”

“Jeff has given me a great opportunity to accompany him in Kenya," says Kiel. "While there I plan to assist Jeff and Clyde and also collect Acanthaceae [Acanthus Family], in particular Justicia and Dicliptera, a focus of my dissertation research. In addition, I'm interested in collecting pickled material so that I can conduct morphological studies in this group. I am interested in understanding floral evolution in Justicieae and what drives its floral diversity. Plants collected from this trip will allow me to conduct a comparative study between Old World and New World justicioids.”