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Pinguicula gypsicola Brandegee (1911)

The botanist C. A. Purpus found in 1910 close to a gypsum quarry named "Minas de San Rafael", located in the Mexican State of San Luis Potosí (east of the town of San Luis Potosí), some butterwort specimen, that he shipped to Europe. In 1911 T. S. Brandegee then described the plants as a new species under the name P. gypsicola. At that time this was the only known butterwort species that was occuring on gypsum. For a long period all plants grown in Europe (including the plants at Kew Botanical Garden) originated from this collection. Only at the end of the 1980s new clones of P. gypsicola were collected at different locations, so genetic diversity could be increased in cultivation.

The typical habitat of P. gypsicola are gypsum hills. The plants grow either in crevices of crystalline gypsum or in thin layers of eroded gypsum soil. The plants prefer to grow on the more shaded hill sides facing north or north-west, as there the water evaporation of the soil is less and the temperatures are lower. Sometines plants can also be found in shady places in small canyons formed in the gypsum hills. During the dry season from December until June the habitat is almost completely dried out and plants get humidity only from morning fogs. During the period from August to November, there is more regular rainfall. It seems that the gypsum itself also stores the humidity from the air, that the plants can also profit from.

The accompanying vegetation at the habitat are xerophytic shrubs, diverse Hechtia species, Agave stricta, different cacti as well as Selaginella cuspidata. At some locations also the annual butterwort P. takakii does occur.

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P. gypsicola does form a winter rosette during the dry season. Thze compact rosette consist of 60 to 80 spatulate, obtuse non-carnivorous winter leaves, that reach a length of 1,5 cm lang and are at the widest point up to 4 mm. The base of the winter leaves are covered with white, laterally protruding hair.

With increasing humidity, from begin of July on, the plants start to form summer leaves. The summer rosette consists of up to 30 leaves. The first summer leaves are only some centimeter long and broad at the base, then the leaves can reach a length of 8 cm, while at the leaf base they are only 8 mm wide. The shape of the summer leaves is elongated-lanceolate. The upper side of the leaf is densely covered with gland bearing hair. The leaf colour can vary between green and reddish.

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The flowering period of P. gypsicola occurs between June and November (depending on the soil humidity, flowering can begin also later). Flowers do appear with the formation of the first summer leaves. It is not a rare case that the number of flower scape per plant can reach 10 per season. The flower scape is densely covered with gland bearing hair and can reach a length of 17 cm, but most of the flower scapes are more between 8 and 12 cm long.

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The corolla is divided in an upper and a lower lip. The petals do have a violet to purple colour. The petals are  lanceolate and the tip of the petal is mostly rounded. Around the entrance of the corolla tube the upper side of the petals show a dark violet spot or dark violet veins. The middle lobe of the lower lip shows a white spot variable in size and form. The diameter of the corolla is between 2 and 2,5 cm. The spur is with up to 2,5 cm quite long and pointed at the end.

For the cultivation of P. gypsicola it is recommended to keep the substrate not to wet, even in summer, to avoid rotting of the roots, that can continue with also the leaves and then the plants will die. As soon as the first winter leaves are formed, watering of the plants should be stopped and the substrate should be kept dry over winter. P. gypsicola does not need necessarily gypsum a substrate for cultiuvation. This species seems to adapt well to quite a range of different substrates and pH does not seem to be important, but a good aeration of the roots seems to be important ofr a long term success in cultivation.