Augusto Ruschi (1915 – 1986)
By Derek Butcher
As a boy, Gutti loved the forest and often took bugs and plants to school. He was the 8th in a family of 12!
Santa Teresa, Espirito Santo, Brazil, was his home and was an area where he spent most of his life and where he was responsible for the creation of the Santa Lucia Ecological Reserve.
Known mainly as a Naturalist with a penchant for humming birds he was a staunch conservationist even in those early days. In the 1950’s he was known world-wide for his work in urging Governments to preserve forests and was one of the first to warn of the dangers of DDT. Things came to a head in 1977 when the Government of the day decided they needed a factory to can Palm-tree hearts in the middle of ‘his’ reserve. He refused them entry and promised to visit the palace and shoot the Governor. The Governor informed the police AND Ruschi informed the Press. Needless to say, Santa Teresa was abuzz especially when it became international news. The Government backed down!
He did include Bromeliads in his work and described several new species. These include:
Neoregelia punctatissima. In all probability this species is not in cultivation even though a plant by this name has been grown since at least 1974 when a photo appeared in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society page 197. This plant is clearly a form of Neoregelia ampullacea.
Neoregelia rubrifolia. Another plant that is shrouded in mystery and probably not in cultivation.
Neoregelia tigrina. We do know this is in cultivation but has had a chequered career in that it was for at least 1970 to 1983 known as N. albiflora even though the only thing it had in common with the description was the colour of the petals. In 1983 Harry Luther broke the news to Bromeliad Growers in the JBS. It is a delightful small yellowish plant with brownish broken bands.
Vriesia hasselbladi. Named in 1964 by Ruschi there are doubts this plant is in cultivation. No herbarium specimen was lodged so this is in effect nomen nudum. This plant is closely linked to Vriesea fosteriana.
Vriesea hieroglyphica var. zebrina . A very elusive plant to find in the wild. In Bromelia 1998 (The Brazilian Journal) it was reported that the last photo taken of this plant was in 1947.
Finally, there was a plant named in his honour by Elton Leme and Bruno Silva, namely, Neoregelia ruschii in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society 2001 page 147.
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