Collecting nettles in the Dominican Republic

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One of very few collections of Rousselia humilis, a rare and unusual species that we found on the very first day! Click on the link to see a brief description.

I have just spent an amazing week with a team from the Jardín Botánico Nacional Dr. Rafael M. Moscoso and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank collecting nettles in the Dominican Republic, thanks to funds from the Bentham Moxon Trust. The Dominican Republic represents half of the island of Hispaniola, the other half being Haiti. Thanks to a rich geological history, varied climate and very high mountains (to 2,760 m) the country is host to a very rich and diverse flora of over 5,500 species, many of which are only found on Hispaniola. We made some very interesting collections, the first two on the first day! One was of a genus, Rousselia that I have never before seen alive and of which few collections exist in herbaria, and which by coincidence I posted about a couple of months ago. The other was of a very unusual tuberous species of Pilea, a genus of ca 715 species of mainly succulent herbs, over 70 of which are found only on the island of Hispaniola.

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An unusual tuberous species of Pilea growing in cracks in limestone karst cliffs on Sierra San Francisco in the Province of San Juan, Dominican Republic. These tubers probably serve to store water during dry periods.

For me, another very interesting genus was Gyrotaenia, which I know from Central America and the Flora of Cuba. It is an unusual tree which has sweet fleshy fruits formed by the fusion and subsequent inflation of the flower stalks.

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The fleshy fruit of Gyrotaenia, a common tree at elevation in Hispaniola. The fleshy ‘fruit’ is formed from the fused and inflated stalks of the flowers.

The team consisted of Teodoro Clase, Wilkin Encarnacíon and Wiluien from the Botanic Gardens, Tiziana Ulian and Efisio Mattana from the Millennium Seed Bank and myself. It was a breathtaking week, much of it spent in the stunning mountains that mark the border with Haiti which I now have a strong desire to visit.

Forest at 2000 m in the Sierra Nevera, an area on the border with Haiti very rich in endemic species and of great importance to several threatened bird species.

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