Doctoral field work in central-southern Mexico
I spent the past six weeks collecting populations of Bomarea edulis for my dissertation research. In Mexico, B. edulis (and indeed the entire family Alstroemeriaceae) is at the northern extent of its range, providing a unique opportunity to study population dynamics and phylogeographic history of the edible species. Along the way, I also collected some neat looking ferns, including one species of Bommeria, which sounds a lot like Bomarea but is actually a cute rock-loving Pteridaceae.
Bomarea vs. Bommeria
While in Mexico, I collected specimens from populations in Morelos, Veracruz, Querétaro, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. These populations represent most of the variation in range and habitats for Bomarea edulis within Mexico. This kind of trip would not have been possible without support from many local herbaria and research institutions, who provided invaluable local expertise on potential collecting localities, transport to the field, collecting supplies, and other resources. A huge thanks to the people from la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, el Instituto de Ecología, la Facultad de Ciencias y el Instituto de Biología de la UNAM, the Eizi Matuda herbarium of UNICAC, and the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla!!! This trip would not have been possible without their generosity and knowledge.
Worries that it might be hard to find Bomarea edulis proved to be unfounded. In Morelos, the plant is pretty weedy along old roads and trails. While it was harder to find in Veracruz and Querétaro, the species is also quite common in the right habitats of Oaxaca and Chiapas. I was also able to collect some individuals of Bomarea acutifolia, the only other species of the genus that reaches Mexico.
Will Travel for Plants
While looking for Bomarea, I was able to visit some absolutely fabulous places in Mexico. I am blown away by the country’s natural beauty, unique combination of ecosystems, and biota.
For now, that concludes my field work for this project. I hope to be able to sample from populations in Western Mexico, but thanks to herbaria often such ‘deficits’ in field collections can be filled in with preserved specimens. The national herbarium in Mexico, MEXU, was generous to allow me to sample leaf tissue from their collections. Stay tuned for potential future trips!!