30 May 2013

Commelinaceae haunts me...

Old habits die hard. During my dissertation I spent lots of time traveling all over the United States and Mexico collecting species in the plant family Commelinaceae (wandering jews, spiderworts). I've mentioned in passing my propensity to continuously stalk wandering jews maintained as ornamental plants inside buildings. Tradescantia pallida (picture to the left) is frequently planted as ground cover outside in the summer. Despite its perennial growth habit, it was replanted each summer back in Missouri as the winters were too harsh for it to survive freezing. This picture was taken recently on Duke's campus, where it seems to overwinter quite happily and persist in random patches.

I don't get much time with plants now that my research is exclusively computational, so it's nice when ornamentals remind me of how attractive my selected species appear (so pretty, in fact, that I obtained a tattoo of one such flower). Therefore, I'm veritably overflowing with glee when I stumble across a member of Commelinaceae in the wild. I visited a friend's farm this past weekend and came across a really nice population of Callisia graminea (right) growing quite happily in the middle of their property. I spent a summer collecting this species with the intention of looking at range expansion of polyploids compared to their diploid progenitors, and hope to get back to this project someday.

I'm even more tickled when I travel someplace I've never been and see plants unknown to me but clearly Commelinaceae. I came across a number of exemplars from Aneilema and Commelina in Kenya last spring. Even though I don't research those particular genera, I still insisted on pulling the van over so I could take a few photos.

Regardless of where I go, wandering jews follow me. I didn't purposely pick a plant family to research that grows in all sorts of exotic, tropical locations. That's just a bonus!

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