March

Neorudolphia volubilis (Willd.) Britton

Neorudolphia volubilis (Willd.) Britton

Family Fabaceae (Pea Family)

The New York Botanical Garden, USA

EMu user since 2002

Neorudolphia volubilis (Willd.) BrittonIn February 1906 Nathaniel and Elizabeth Britton, founders of The New York Botanical Garden, embarked on their first trip to Puerto Rico, beginning an association with the island that continued for the rest of their lives. The Brittons and their collaborators carried out 16 expeditions to Puerto Rico from 1906 until 1933, collecting 10,139 specimens and discovering 38 new species of flowering plants, lichens, fungi and algae.

Nathaniel Britton’s major scientific publication resulting from this work was the multivolume Botany of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands (1923-1930). At the time of his death in 1934 he was nearing completion of a popular work on the flora of the island, Flora Borinqueña, which was to include non-technical descriptions in English and Spanish of approximately 400 species, illustrated with watercolour paintings by Frances Horne. Horne, a North American who lived in Puerto Rico for 45 years, also illustrated Danforth’s Los Pájaros de Puerto Rico (1934), and Little, Wadsworth and Marerro’s Árboles Comunes de Puerto Rico y las Islas Virgenes (1967).

The manuscript and illustrations for Flora Borinqueña were not published, but have never been entirely forgotten by the botanical community. Accompanying the watercolour of Neorudolphia volubilis by Horne (shown), Britton wrote “No English name has, to our knowledge, been applied, in literature, to this twining, woody vine, endemic in Porto Rico, where it is also known as Bejuco de alambac and Bejuco Prieto. It inhabits moist or wet districts, growing in thickets and woodlands, from lower to high elevations, but is nowhere common. The vine is strikingly conspicuous when in bloom, bearing long, dense, elegant clusters of bright red flowers, which are succeeded by flat pods containing many seeds. No attempt to grow it in gardens has come to our attention, but as an ornamental vine, horticultural experimentation would be well worthwhile.”

The New York Botanical Garden has made the manuscript and illustrations of Flora Borinqueña available to the public for the first time via the Flora Borinqueña Digital Herbarium and Library (http://sweetgum.nybg.org/pr/index.php) using KE Software’s EMu.