Ynés Mexía is on Google Doodle: Who was this woman?

Ynés Mexía, a Mexican-American botanist and explorer who studied everything from a remote volcano to poisonous berries, is honored with a Google Doodle in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. She is credited with the discovery of 150,000 botanical specimens.

Ynés Mexía is on Google Doodle: Who was this woman? Image: Google
Ynés Mexía is on Google Doodle: Who was this woman? Image: Google

Mexía's travels were made "for the sake of botanical discoveries," Google wrote with Google's Doodle, "We began the long journey back," Mexía wrote after collecting wax palm samples, "very tired, very hot, very dirty, but very happy.

"Ynes Mexia's life is an excellent example of how it is never too late to find one's calling," wrote Latino Natural History. Her full name was Ynes Enriquetta Julietta Mexia. Mexia didn't even begin collecting specimens until she was 50, and she didn't live long after that point. However, she managed to make a lasting contribution to the field of botany and to the world.

SHPE National called her "possibly the most successful plant collector of her time. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, its "discoveries helped clarify and complete botanical records.

She was "one of the great botanical gatherers of the early 20th century", External Reports.

This is what you need to know:

1. Mexía first traveled to Mexico in search of 'rare botanical species'

Google timed Google Doodle to coincide with the anniversary of Mexía's first plant collection tour.

She had gone to Sinaloa, Mexico, Google wrote in 1925, accompanied by colleagues from Stanford University "in search of rare botanical species. She was 55 years old and had joined a local Sierra Club. It was a difficult journey in which she fractured her hand and ribs, but brought back 500 specimens, 50 of which were recently discovered, according to Google.

According to Latino Natural History, the collection trip involved Stanford University botanist Roxanna Stinchfield Ferris. One of the species they collected received its name from Mexia: Mimosa mexiae, the site reported.

The biography of the Mexia Natural History Museum says she "decided it could do more on its own," once she arrived in Mexico. He left the group behind and spent two years collecting more than 1,500 specimens, "which he sent to the Berkeley herbarium. Her success in Mexico ensured her reputation," the biography explained.

2. Mexía was the daughter of a Mexican diplomat

Mexía was born in Washington DC in 1870 "as the daughter of a Mexican diplomat," Google wrote.

According to Latino Natural History, her mother was an American and moved to Texas with her when her parents separated. She was bicultural. Eventually, however, she also joined her father in Mexico City. She married twice. Her early life, NYBG reported, was "somewhat tumultuous.

Mexía had many personal problems, but eventually, they took her to California and a new career. One of her husbands died, and the second marriage ended in divorce, according to Latino Natural History, and she moved to California "after a nervous breakdown. She became a U.S. citizen in 1924.

She was a social worker in California before becoming a botanist.

According to Outside, Mexia persevered despite discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and age.

3. Ynés Mexía began studying botany at age 51

It wasn't until Mexía was in California around the age of 50 that she decided to turn her love of nature into a vocation and began studying botany. Google reports that Mexía began studying at the age of 51.

"After her maiden voyage of plant discovery in 1925, Mexía continued to travel to discover more species throughout Mexico, many of which were named after her," according to Google, including Zexmenia mexiae, now called Lasianthaea macrocephala.

Latino Natural History pointed out that Mexia was "a special student at the University of California - Berkeley" when she was fascinated by botany.

"I have a job, [where] I produce something real and lasting," she wrote about studying botany, according to Latino Natural History.

4. Mexía's work continues

Mexia never completed a college degree, however, became an influential figure in his chosen field.

Mexía became "one of the most famous botanical specimen collectors in history," according to Google, she collected about 150,000 specimens.

"More than 90 years after it began, scientists are still studying Mexía samples, which are now found in a number of important institutions around the world," Google wrote.

According to Early Women in Science, she collected specimens in the United States, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico.

Outside she described her trip to a volcano; she was based in Ecuador and traveled to find Chiles, "a remote volcano on the border with Colombia," because the wax palm was said to grow there, Outside reported. This tree was said to tolerate the cold at high altitudes. Finally, she found the tree. "I photographed the great spathe and the cluster of flowers, so heavy that the two men could barely lift it; measurements and notes made, and took portions of the large arched leaves," he later wrote, according to Outside.

5. Mexía died of lung cancer

Ynés Mexía died at age 67, collecting specimens for only 13 years. She died of lung cancer, according to Latino Natural History.

Early Women in Science reported that Mexía worked with famous scientists such as Agnes Chase and Alice Eastwood. "She managed to collect thousands of plant specimens, including unknown types of plants," the site reported.

According to the Museum of Natural History's biography, her adventures were many; for example, she collected plants in Alaska, traveled by canoe along the Amazon River and traveled to Mexico and South America several times. "In just 13 years, she collected 8,800 numbers or more than 145,000 specimens. They include two new genera, Mexianthus Robinson (Asteraceae) and Spulula Mains (Pucciniaceae)," the biography says.

By Mexicanist

Recommended stories