We were descending into El valle Huaylla Belén (Amazonas District), high in the Peruvian Andes near the border with Ecuador. Looking up (one of only two directions in the Andes), I saw a plant that made me think I was back in Australia (a mere 13,500 km across the Pacific Ocean). I could have sworn I was looking at a Dianella.
Later identified as Eccremis coarctata, the plants are almost indistinguishable from Australian Dianella. A single species of Eccremis is known, native to the Andes in northern Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. Eccremis grows at high altitude, on misty slopes.
A molecular phylogeny of the family has found that Eccremis is sister to the genus Dianella. It probably reached South America by long-distance dispersal early on in the evolution of the Dianella clade (Wurdack & Dorr 2009).
Eccremis joins other plant groups with direct links to Australian species, including Orthrosanthus and Libertia (Iridaceae), Oreocallis (Proteaceae) and Boerhavia (Nyctaginaceae).
As a research botanist, a plant press is a simple, yet essential tool. This blog aims to provide news on botanical discoveries, natural history and Australian science - hopefully it to will become an essential tool!
The author grew up on a cattle station in the remote north Kimberley of Western Australia and continues to research this remote wilderness from his current base in Canberra. With a focus on plant systematics (the naming and classification of plants), the author engages with many diciplines, and this blog will post news on all manner of natural history stories form Australia and expeditions abroad.
The photograph shows a plant press, overflowing with botanical specimens, at the end of a steaming hot day in the remote Bonaparte Archipelago in the far-north Kimberley.