30 December 2008
We have one specimen of this fascinating plant growing at Selby Gardens. Collected in 1998 by Bruce Holst in Peru (MSBG 1998-0223A), our specimen has been flowering for some time. Recently, several fruit have been produced. As if the flowers weren't spectacular enough, the fruit are rather showy themselves. As is evident in the photograph, the calyx remains attached (the red, leaf-like structures). The fruit itself consists of a yellow pericarp that reflexes at maturity while the inner, fleshy endocarp splits longitudinally to reveal hundreds of small seeds.
16 December 2008
First off, The GRC promotional brochure is almost complete and almost ready to be printed. We have finalized the text and images and we are now waiting on the penultimate proofs. The literature promises to be an informative and eye-catching promotion of the GRC and we are looking forward to having it for mailings, events, fundraisers and other opportunities.
On a similar note, we have been receiving a great deal of publicity in the last month, including a small article in a Sarasota regional paper, The Pelican Press. The piece featured the newly formed GRC, my position as director, and the plans for the new molecular program at Selby.
I also had the pleasure of being interviewed by our local NPR radio station. A short sound bite was aired on December 4th that introduced listeners to gesneriads, the GRC, and molecular systematics. You can listen to the segment at WGCU-NPR's website:
Gesneriad Research Center on WGCU-NPR
Just today (22 December 2008), Selby Gardens issued a press release on the new Drymonia that John L. and I are co-describing in the next issue of Selbyana. The press release can be seen on my website:
Selby Gardens Researchers describe New Species.
Images and details of this species can also be seen on my website:
Research is moving forward as well. As part of the Gesneriads of the Interface Zone project, we have requested and begun receiving herbarium specimens from around the world representing the Cyrtandra samoensis complex of species. Cyrtandra samoensis is the only species of Pacific cyrtandras that is widely dispersed. As you may recall from my previous posts and articles, most Pacific cyrtandras are geographically restricted to single archipelagos or even single islands. Researching how C. samoensis compares with other closely related species in the complex is needed to understand why this species has been able to disperse broadly while other closely related species have not. In turn, this information may help us to understand more broadly how and under what conditions certain species of cyrtandras become more greatly dispersed. Ultimately, this information will be used to test our hypotheses of how, when and why the genus Cyrtandra has managed to cover a third of the planet's circumference.
One final project that I have mentioned little, if at all, is a potential collaboration and field project in Costa Rica that we have established for Selby Research. I, along with Stig Dalstrom, Selby Gardens Orchid Identification Center Curator (pictured here with a Drymonia macrantha), recently returned from a week-long networking trip to Boracayan, Costa Rica - the wildlife refuge where we discovered Drymonia decora in 2003. The plan is to set up a collaboration with Boracayan and a Costa Rican research affiliate to conduct an all-vascular plant inventory of the refuge. We have already documented over 10 species of gesneriads from Boracayan. Our planned inventory project will most likely uncover more gesneriad species as we explore this botanically rich region of Central America. Look for more updates on this exciting endeavor in the coming year.
Okay...enough for now. Happy New Year!
~ John R.
10 November 2008
In my last post, I mentioned that the link and image could be seen "below." This was out of context - in your email there is nothing "below" and you will have to go to the actual blog to see the updated previous post ("A visit with John L." - the post with the link as well as the image).
When you sign up for email updates (which many of you have done...thanks!), you will occasionally receive an email like this one that contains all or part of the most recent post (I imagine you are reading this straight from your email and not directly from the blog site).
At the bottom of the message, you should see a sentence that reads, "You are subscribed to email updates from Gesneriad Research Center"
To go directly to the blog, click on this link. I encourage everyone to actually visit the blog from time to time. I will be continually updating images and other features and you may not know about these changes from reading only the email updates.
Thank you again for all the input and help. I always appreciate your comments and suggestions!
09 November 2008
07 November 2008
17 October 2008
An important goal we have at the GRC is increased visibility of gesneriads at Selby Gardens. The Tropical Plant Display House provides a wonderful venue to do so: inside, one can walk among many great specimens of tropical plants including various orchids, bromeliads, and gesneriads. There are currently several gesneriads to see in the Display House, both prominently featured as well as nestled into the naturalistic displays.
15 October 2008
The Interface Zone: solid line indicates an area known as the "Fijian Region." The "Interface Zone" includes all of the Fijian Region plus the area enclosed by the dashed line (Fig. 1 from Clark, J.R. 2008. Gesneriads at the edge of the world...with notes on current research at Selby Gardens. Gesneriads 58: 35-38).
By John R. Clark
By now, many Gesneriad Society Members have received the newest issue of Gesneriads. On page 35 there is an article on our signature research project at the GRC: Gesneriads of the Interface Zone. We are in the process of securing funding for this project through competitive grants and philanthropic individuals. If you or someone you know may be interested in participating or supporting us in this monumental project, please contact me.
Okay...here's a bit of an overview of what we are planning to do (just in case some of our blog readers don't receive Gesneriads):
Comparative study between related lineages of organisms that differ in their ability to colonize islands can provide valuable insight into how geography may be affecting speciation. The flowering plant family Gesneriaceae (African violets and their relatives) provides a unique opportunity to examine island colonization in relation to the evolution of species: although gesneriads are found distributed throughout all of the world’s tropical forests, only one genus, Cyrtandra, has colonized the remote Pacific Islands. Cyrtandra is the most species-rich genus of gesneriad (>500 species) and has the greatest single range for any genus in the family, extending from the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean to the distant Hawaiian and Marquesan Islands in the Pacific. The broad distribution and large number of species in Cyrtandra is in marked contrast to other gesneriads, including the genera Aeschynanthus (±185 sp.), Boea (±14 sp.), Coronanthera (±11 sp.), and Epithema (±20 sp.), that reach their easternmost extent in the Solomon Islands. For these gesneriads, the southeast Asia-Pacific Interface Zone is effectively the “edge of the world.”
The Interface Zone, centered on Fiji and including the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tonga, and Samoa (as well as other associated islands), has been implicated as a center of origin for the Pacific species of Cyrtandra (Clark, J.R. et al. 2008. Syst. Biol. 57:693-707). Results from these evolutionary analyses suggest that once the barrier to Pacific dispersal within the Interface Zone had been overcome, Cyrtandra was well suited for island hopping and continued to do so across the expanse of the Pacific. As intriguing as this scenario is, the data supporting it are preliminary and additional species sampling and further analyses are required. Likewise, the other genera of gesneriads from the interface zone are poorly known and similar evolutionary analyses have not been conducted as a result. Intensive species sampling within the interface zone, principally in the Solomon Islands and Fiji, is vital to address the questions of how and why Cyrtandra dispersed throughout the Pacific while a diverse assemblage of related gesneriads did not.
In collaboration with representatives from the Solomon Islands and Fiji, we are proposing detailed sampling and collection of the gesneriads Aeschynanthus, Boea, Coronanthera, Cyrtandra and Epithema in critical areas of the Solomon Islands (the islands of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, Santa Isabel, Choiseul) and Fiji (the islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, and Taveuni) beginning in July of 2009. The Solomon Islands represents the easternmost range for all genera under consideration, excluding Cyrtandra, and Fiji is the hypothesized first step into the Pacific by Cyrtandra. Data to be collected include herbarium specimens, silica gel-dried leaf tissue, alcohol-preserved flowers and fruits, living collections, and locality/habitat information. This fieldwork will be critical for completing comprehensive evolutionary studies on these genera and are required for detailed analysis and testing of the center of origin hypothesis for Cyrtandra as well as for developing parallel hypotheses in related gesneriad genera.
Stay tuned to the GRC blog for updates on this and other exciting projects involving gesneriad research at Selby Gardens.
05 October 2008
29 September 2008
11 September 2008
09 September 2008
In 2002, with his health failing, Hans Wiehler made the decision to donate the several thousand herbarium specimens of the Gesneriad Research Foundation (GRF) to Selby Gardens. The GRF’s collection of liquid-preserved specimens would soon follow. These specimens had been accumulated through numerous field trips over a nearly 30-year period (1971-1999), and represent the most significant collection of gesneriads made by a single individual. Larry Skog was enlisted to assist in the consolidation of the specimens into the Selby Herbarium. Contributing to this effort were Jeanne Katzenstein (Editor of Gesneriads, the journal of The Gesneriad Society), Bruce Holst (Selby Gardens Herbarium Curator), John R. Clark (now director of gesneriad programs at Selby), Melissa McDowell (Suncoast Chapter of The Gesneriad Society), and many dedicated volunteers.
Meanwhile, Skog was nearing the end of his industrious career at the Smithsonian; retiring in 2003. The venerable institution would not be continuing gesneriad research in an official capacity after his retirement, thus leaving a need for a centralized research program. With its newly acquired GRF collections and existing resources, it was clear to all involved that Selby Gardens was an excellent choice to host a center specializing in gesneriads.
In addition, the Systematist will conduct research geared towards enhancing the Garden’s research mission. This research will include basic field research and plant collecting, as well as molecular-based and traditional taxonomic/monographic research with emphasis in the plant family Gesneriaceae and secondarily with other plant families under study at the Center.