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Botany in the Field

Botanist with Monnina

January 4, 2013

Botany Collection Manager Alina Freire-Fierro studies the origin and diversification of the plant genus Monnina, which grows from the southern United States to Chile and Uruguay. Here she poses with Monnina phillyreoides (Bonpl.) B. Eriksen in a remnant of the cloud forest of northern Ecuador. This “treelet” is the most common species of Monnina in Ecuador, where about 40 of the genus’ 200 species grow. The plant genus can grow at many elevations and in areas as diverse as rainforests and rocky outcrops. It flourishes in areas disturbed by human activity. Here it is seen growing in front of a potato field.

Freire-Fierro traveled to Ecuador to take samples and gather information about habitats. Examining the plant’s DNA in combination with its morphology, or physical characteristics such as leaf shapes, flowers, and fruits, helps us understand the evolution of these characteristics and find differences between species.

Visit us during the month of January to learn more about our botanists and their work at the Academy. Our Botany Collection houses almost 1.5 million botanical specimens, including some of the oldest and most important plant collections in the Americas. Thursdays through Mondays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., we’ll give visitors ages 8 and up a sneak peak at some of these during behind-the-scenes tours (free, sign up at front desk on tour day). During Botany Discovery Weekend on January 19, 20, and 21, meet botanists, view specimens, participate in hand-on activities and demonstrations.

This article was adapted from the spring 2012 issue of Academy Frontiers.