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Photo by Carol Gracie

Ph.D.: University of Wisconsin, 1979
Title: Associate Curator
Research: Cucurbitaceae, Solanaceae, floristics of Bolivia

For several decades I have been studying the plants of tropical America, first in the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico, and now in Bolivia, although my travels have taken me to most of the countries in the Americas. The families which I am especially interested in are the Solanaceae family (potato, tomato, tobacco) and the Curbitaceae family (squashes, pumpkins, melons), both of which are richly represented in these areas.

Products of my research have been floristic treatments (annotated lists, with descriptions, keys for identification, and illustrations) for various families for the Flora de Veracruz. Currently I am working on a flora of the region of Parque Nacional Amboró, Bolivia, one of the most diverse national parks in the world in terms of number of species of plants (and birds), as well as treatments of the family Solanaceae and Cucurbitaceae for the whole country of Bolivia. Also in progress is a Checklist of all the plants known to grow in Bolivia, a joint project with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the National Herbairum of Bolivia.

I also teach a graduate-level course on plant systematics at The New York Botanical Garden/City University of New York. Advising graduate students at New York and unoficially advising many undergraduates in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, are another important aspect of my work.

The Andean range emerges abruptly from the vast plains which occupy the center of South America, forming a barrier from the Tierra del Fuego in the south to Colombia and Venezuela in the north. This painting is from a gorge near the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and in the area where I am currently working on producing a list of all the 3000+ species of vascular plants growing in and around the Amboró National Park-the Flora de la Región del Parque Nacional Amboró. In this particular area, the vegetation is a subtropical deciduous forest. One of the more impressive trees is the Ceiba boliviana, with large white flowers streaked with red, and a trunk armed with massive conical thorns. Less ferocious, but defended in its own way is the "ajo-ajo" tree, Gallesia integrifolia, whose common name means "garlic-garlic", a good name for a tree which exhales an overpowering stench of garlic from every part. The Helicteres lhotskyana has no common name, nor is it know what pollinates the very long flowers. The bromeliad (pineapple family) called Tillandsia samaipatensis forms huge rosettes of leaves on the massive red sandstone cliffs. When flowering, the pendant inflorescence is up to 6 feet long and bright yellow. Despite the fact that it grows commonly along the main (and then only) highway connecting the 2nd and 3rd largest cities of the country, this spectacular plant was only given its scientific name in 1997! Less impressive, but intriguing in its own way, is the grass Paspalum stellatum, with each flower stalk provided with a flattened structure like the gables of a roof, protecting the flowers from the rain. Surveying this landscape from above is the impressive Andean condor, a rare and endangered species which still inhabits these extremely diverse mountain habitats.

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