And now, who will call the plants by name? Yolanda León, Dominican biologist, on the death of Brígido Peguero ____
It was the last interview he offered to a media outlet, on May 11 of this year. He spoke of the viability of seeds, of how many species lose the ability to germinate through seeds and, instead, only do so through stakes, because as living beings they adapt to changes in reproduction and cultivation. Yucca is a good example, said the Dominican botanist Brígido Peguero while sharing impressions with the biologist Yvonne Arias, coordinator of the Green Meeting of Listín Diario; with Eladia Gesto, Manager of Environmental Management and Conservation Programs of the Propagás Foundation; and who writes, coordinator of Vida Verde, the ecological page of this newspaper.
“If you stop planting for seeds, the plant stops producing them little by little because it understands that they are no longer necessary”, explained Don Brígido. “The cayenne,” asked the then head of the Department of Botany of the National Botanical Garden (JBN) -, have you ever seen the seeds of cayenne? “. I answer that the variety of hibiscus that we have at home is full of seeds. I tell you what they are like, how we let that thickened cocoon keep growing to see what was inside (because it didn’t look like they were petals) and how one day it broke and exposed dozens of little black, hair-covered seeds that looked like trichomes.
He asks if they are known as “blood of Christ”, red and with simple petals. Upon obtaining a positive response, he was very surprised and said that now it was necessary to see if they managed to germinate once sown. I answer that yes, that we planted them and they germinated, and that the oldest one has grown to almost one meter. I promised to share images with him and once Don Brígido received them, he was happy –and surprised– so much that he promised to study them and publish the study in the Salcedoa (JBN’s scientific journal) and in the newspaper. But he couldn’t do it. Days after the last email, he was admitted to a clinic. On June 8, Covid-19 took away one of the most brilliant Dominican scientists.
IT STILL HURTS
It was hard to believe that he was gone. It’s still hard to believe that he’s gone. That we will not see his emotional face again when he spoke of the botanical heritage of the Dominican Republic: its importance for science, its benefits and needs. That we will not ask him again for the scientific name of the plants, a management to which he added -in minutes- all the available data on the species, so that the information would reach the reader in full.
His work as a botanical biologist went beyond research, environmental education, and scientific publications.
Peguero bequeathed to science more than 15,000 collected numbers and dozens of floristic studies carried out especially in Dominican protected areas.
The Cojoba urbanii and the Calycogonium bairdianum are part of the new species that he discovered in co-authorship and in his honor the orchid was dedicated Sudamerlycaste pegueroi.
His legacy is a living legacy, like the plants he loved so much.