Who is Ynes Mexia?

Ynes Mexia was a professional Mexican-American botanist. She was well known to be the best botanist of her time. Furthermore, a genus of Asteraceae was found by her, which is her best achievement.

Ynes Mexia

Life and Education

She was born on the 24th of May, 1870, on Washington, D.C, to Enrique Mexia and Sarah Wilmer. Mexia’s father was a diplomat. Her parents broke their marriage in 1873, and her father went back to Mexico. Her mother took the children and moved to Limestone County, which is the present-day Mexia, Texas.

Mexia spent her childhood in Texas. She received secondary education in private schools in Philadelphia and Ontario, Canada. She attended Saint Joseph’s Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Later, she moved to Mexico City and lived at the family hacienda for 10 years. She also took care of her father, who later died in 1896. Initially, Mexia wanted to become a nun. However, her father threatened to cut her off the family inheritance she shared with her sister if she did. Her father’s mistress, stepbrother, and stepsister fought for the inheritance.

Ynes Mexia

Mexia married a Spanish-German merchant named Herman de Laue in 1897. However, her marriage ended when he died in 1904. Later, she married D. Augustin Reygados. Yet, this marriage too ended shortly afterward. Her husband mismanaged her poultry business while she received medical treatment. This leads them to divorce in 1908.

Later, Mexia began her career as a social worker in San Francisco. Furthermore, she matriculated at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1921. However, she never received a degree. Mexia died from lung cancer on the 12th of July, 1938, after falling ill on a collecting trip to Mexico.

Career and Legacy

Mexia began her botany career at the very late age of 55. She started with the trip to western Mexico under the supervision of Roxana Ferris. She is a fellow botanist at Stanford University.

During the trip, Mexía fell off a cliff and was injured. This halted the trip and yielded 500 specimens, including several new species. She discovered a new species Mimosa mexiae, which was named after her.

Furthermore, Mexia traveled to various countries like:
•Argentina, Chile, Mount McKinley in 1928
•Brazil in 1929
•Ecuador in 1934
•Peru and the Straits of Magellan in 1935
•Southwestern Mexico in 1937

Ynes Mexia

Furthermore, she discovered another new genus Mexianthus. This was one of the 150,000 samples that she collected. She usually traveled alone, which was rare for women in the 20th century. Furthermore, she received over 33,000 samples, including 50 new species, during her trip to Western Mexico. Also, Mexía traveled up the Amazon River to its source in the Andes mountains as well, along with a guide and three other men in a canoe. She also spent three months living with a native group in the Amazon, the Araguarunas. Currently, the California Academy of Sciences has her specimen collections.