Searching for river-weed plants in Northern South America

Also known as river-weeds, the Podostemaceae resemble algae but are flowering plants, producing small flowers that stick above the water level. Their highly simplified forms are adapted strictly to fast-flowing aquatic habitats such as rapids, rivers and streams. Their form, with roots forming a holdfast and flexible stems, makes them look a lot like algae attached to rocks.

The group has been poorly collected in the region with most of the records dating from 1951 or earlier, and few in recent years. The limited sampling effort is partly due to the difficulty of travelling to the places where the plants occur—long and logistically complicated journeys by air, land, and water. Also, there’s the apparent unattractiveness of river-weeds to most researchers who go to the tropics in search of flamboyant plants.

While in Colombia, I first visited the Caribbean coast where Dr. Santiago Madriñán hosted me at the Guillermo Piñeres Botanical Garden in Turbaco, Bolívar. Santiago is a well-known Colombian botanist at the Universidad de los Andes and current director at the botanical garden in Turbaco, most famous for his work on plants in the tropical alpine ecosystem known as páramo. At the garden, the herbarium holds the most important plant collection in the Colombian Caribbean.

Article Source: Burke Museum