Rhynchosia is the largest and most diverse genus of the legume subtribe Cajaninae and comprises approximately 230 species. It has a pantropical distribution with two main centers of diversity: one in Africa, the other in the Americas. Several species of Rhynchosia are used for livestock forage, while other species, commonly called rosary bean, have brightly colored seeds used for making jewelry and other handcrafts. Luísa Maria de Paula Alves Bezerra will discuss her doctoral research on the systematics of Rhynchosia in South America, which harbors 27 recognized species of the genus. Phylogenetic analyses of subtribe Cajaninae based on molecular data show that Rhynchosia is non-monophyletic, suggesting that a new circumscription of the genus and a new classification of the subtribe are needed. Other research is being undertaken to examine and refine the taxonomy of the American species of the genus.
Luísa Bezerra is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Botany, Institute of Biosciences, at São Paulo State University in Brazil. She is an expert in the systematics and evolution of the genus Rhynchosia and other phaseoloid legumes and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Federal University of Ouro Preto and the State University of São Paulo, respectively. Luísa was selected to receive the 2020 Rupert Barneby Award of The New York Botanical Garden, a small grant given annually to help researchers visit NYBG to carry out specimen-based research on the legume collection in the Steere Herbarium.