I spent the week at Palo Verde Biological Station in Costa Rica for the OTS Tropical Plant Systematics course. This site is a stark contrast to the high elevation, cool forests at Cuericí, but has a variety of intriguing forests and habitat types. Now the wet season, these seasonally dry forests are green and full of life.
The biological station looks south on a large marsh, and the Rio Tempisque. One of the class hikes involved examining the diversity of aquatic plants in the waist deep marsh.
Vachellia collinsii (Saff.) Seigler & Ebinger
This plant is one of many with a fascinating ant symbiosis biology. This provides to the ants food via nectaries on the petiole, as well as a home in the large swollen thorns. These ants aggressively defend their host, and even weed out the competition in the understory.
Guazuma ulmifolia Lam.
Recently placed in the subfamily Byttneroideae of Malvaceae, G. ulmifolia has peculiar stamen-like filaments that are actually modified petals. Relationships between subfamilies in Malvaceae remains obscure, and there is still much work to be done in this group.
Polystemma guatemalense (Schltr.) W.D.Stevens
Tomorrow I'll be visiting a mangrove to do some botanizing, before heading to the La Selva Biological Station.
I have just received the William H. Danforth Fellowship in Plant Sciences! This fellowship provides me with four years of full stipend support along with additional funds for travel and research expenses. I am so grateful for this opportunity which represents a huge step forward in securing the funding needed to complete my research. This stipend support in conjunction with I-CARES funding will enable to me to probe the genetic basis of lipid composition across Camelina and investigate the influence of polyploidy on the lipid biosynthesis pathway.
I've had the pleasure to travel to Las Cruces and Cuericí biological stations in Costa Rica as part of the OTS Tropical Plant Systematics course. During the past couple of weeks I spent time at these sites attending course lectures, collecting plants, herping, and learning new computational skills. I will now spend a week in Palo Verde National Park before spending nearly two weeks at La Selva Biological Station. Here are some of the highlights (and plants) of my trip so far:
This is one of the many Neotropical Green Anoles wandering about the gardens at Las Cruces Biological Station.
Centropogon ferrungineus (L.f.) Gleason
The cloud forests around Cuericí are filled with a diversity of flora, and the mix of primary and secondary forests allows for interesting comparisons.
Kohleria tigridia (Ohlend.) Roalson & Boggan
Romanschulzia costaricensis (Standl.) Rollins
This is a very interesting Crucifer native to Costa Rica and can be distinguished from the endemic R. apetala by having reduced white petals and narrow fruits (~1mm wide), whereas R. apetala is of a shrub-like habit, lacks petals, and has wider fruits (3-4mm).
A view from the old oxcart trail in the Costa Rican Talamanca páramo.
Elaphoglossum hoffmannii (Mett. ex Kuhn) Christ
It's a real pleasure to be taking the OTS Tropical Plant Systematics course with Ptedirophyte (fern) expert, Robbin Moran from the New York Botanical Gardens. With Robbin's supreme enthusiasm, we hunted down this extraordinary iridescent Elaphoglossum in the Talamanca páramo!
Pachyphyllum hispidulum (Rchb. f.) Garay & Dunst.
This little orchid grows inconspicuously on trees in the páramo. Some branches host half a dozen of these, and to my surprise the populations were quite large. Orchidaceae is one of the most diverse families that inhabit the páramo and luckily many species of epiphytic and terrestrial orchids were in bloom!
It's my first day in Costa Rica for the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) graduate course in Tropical Plant Systematics. After a quick trip to the University of Costa Rica campus and the Museo Nacional, we explored the mercado central of San Jose. I stumbled across this medicinal plants vendor who was selling bundles of dried Lepidium, which unbeknownst to me, has some suspected medicinal values. Regretfully, I didn't ask how much each bundle cost, but it's a miracle they sell at all with all of the weedy Lepidium growing throughout the streets of San Jose.