Ynes Mexia

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Ynes Mexia
Woman standing in front of plants, wearing a long coat and glasses
Native name
Ynés Mexía
BornMay 24, 1870
DiedJuly 12, 1938(1938-07-12) (aged 68)
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
AwardsLife member of the California Academy of Sciences
Scientific career

Ynés Enriquetta Julietta Mexía (May 24, 1870 – July 12, 1938) was a botanist known for her collection of novel plant specimens from areas of Mexico and South America. She discovered a new genus of Asteraceae and was arguably the most accomplished plant collector of her time.


Ynés Mexia attended many schools in America. Her most notable education was her attendance at the University of California in 1921. Mexia took several classes in botany over the course of 16 years but, ultimately, never finished her degree.[1] However, these classes lead Mexia to a career in botany and collecting botanical specimens.[2]


Mexia began traveling and collecting specimens in 1925 on a trip to Mexico.[1][3] She continued her collecting throughout South America, including Brazil, Peru, Equador, Bolivia, Argentinia, and Chile. Mexia paid for her expeditions by selling specimens to herbariums and other institutions.[2] Nina Floy Bracelin, an American botanist, helped her catalogue her specimens.


Ynes Mexia published a book, Brazilian Ferns Collected by Ynes Mexia, with Edwin Bingham Copeland in 1932.[4]

Awards and Accomplishments[edit]

Though Mexia had a short career -- only 13 years -- compared to many other academics, she collected a huge number of plant specimens. According to the British Natural History museum, she collected at least 145,000 plant specimens during her travels.[5] She was the first to collect plants from 500 new species. Although curators are still working to catalogue her full selection of specimens, 50 new species have already been named after her.[1][5]

By the end of her life, Mexia had earned several awards, including:

Later years[edit]

Mexia died in 1938 after being diagnosed with lung cancer during her final expedition to Mexico.[5]


Floy N Bracelin: The Ynes Mexia Botanical Collection: Oral History Transcript, 1982[6]

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