California Academy of Sciences - To Explore, Explain, and Protect the Natural World

Frank Almeda

McAllister Chair, Chairman
and Senior Curator
Department of Botany

A.B. University of South Florida (1968); Ph.D. Duke University (1975). Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles (1975-78). Associate Curator, California Academy of Sciences (1978-85). Director of Research (1983-86); Senior Curator (1985-); Editorial Board, Systematic Botany Monographs (1979-81). Corresponding Secretary. California Botanical Society (1979-82). President, California Botanical Society (1986-87). Jesse M. Greenman Award of the Missouri Botanical Garden Alumni Association. Fellow, California Academy of Sciences. Member, American Society of Plant Taxonomists; Organization for Tropical Studies; Sigma Xi.

My research on flowering plants involves assessing relationships, deducing evolutionary trends, and elucidating the functional significance of floral structures in relation to pollination. My current studies center on the Princess Flowers (Melastomataceae), a worldwide family of tropical plants related to the evening primroses and the family that includes Eucalyptus, Bottlebrush, and guavas. These studies have taken me to the coastal marshes and montane cloud forests of Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, the cerrado and gallery forests of central Brazil, and the paramo habitats above treeline in the Andes of Ecuador and Venezuela. I combine field work and laboratory analysis in the following investigations:

1. Pollination studies. The methods by which pollen grains reach a stigma involve fascinating reciprocal adaptations of flowers and the animals that pollinate them. Species of Melastomataceae that offer pollen, floral oils, and fragrances as rewards to attract pollinators seem adapted for pollination by various species of bees, whereas the rarer nectar-producing species are visited by hummingbirds, bats, and rats.

2. SEM studies of reproductive characters. My applications of scanning electron microscopy to the study of Melastomataceae pollen and seed morphology provide a wealth of data on the diversification of micromorphological features. Seed morphology, in particular, is a conservative character that provides a sound basis for assessing generic and tribal relationships.

3. Chromosomal cytology. Information on chromosome numbers has only recently begun to be used in systematic studies of the Melastomataceae, but it promises to be useful in determining generic relationships and in pointing out patterns of evolutionary change in other important morphological characteristics. In conjunction with DNA studies, chromosome cytology is shedding light on the historical biogeography and phylogeny of the family.

4. Regional floristic inventories. I am currently preparing regional inventories of the Melastomataceae for Costa Rica, Chiapas, Mexico, and the entire Mesoamerican region that will include identification keys, detailed species descriptions, distributional data, diagnostic illustrations, and explanatory discussions. In addition to recording information on local and commercial uses of species and their potential for economic exploitation, these inventories provide the essential data base for determining which tropical areas are unique and in need of protection.

Almeda, F. & C. M. Pringle. 1988. Tropical Rainforests: Diversity and Conservation. Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences Number 12, California Academy of Sciences and Pacific Division,

American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Almeda, F. 1990. New species and new combinations in Blakea and Topobea (Melastomataceae), with an historical perspective on generic limits in the tribe Blakecae. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 46: 299-326.

Almeda, F. and T.I. Chuang. 1992. Chromosome numbers and their systematics significance in some Mexican Melastomataceae. Systematic Botany 17: 583-593.

Almeda, F. 1993a. Stanmarkia, a new genus of Melastomataceae from the volcanic highlands of western Guatemala and adjacent Mexico. Brittonia 45: 187-203.

Almeda, F. 1993b. Pilocosta (Melastomataceae) revisited: a new species, polyploidy, and the base chromosome number of the genus. Novon 3: 311-316.

Almeda, F. 1993c. An evaluation of the Mesoamerican species of Meriania (Melastomataceae: Merianieae). Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 48: 141-152.

Almeda, F. 1997. Chromosome numbers and their evolutionary significance in some neotropical and paleotropical Melastomataceae. BioLlania Ed. Esp. 6: 167-190.


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