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Miguel Cházaro, legendary botanist extraordinaire

On April 4, at the age of 74, retired Universidad de Guadalajara (UdG) botanist Dr. Miguel de Jesús Cházaro Basañez died peacefully at his home in Veracruz, while reading a book—on plants, naturally.

pg8aCházaro loved plants all his life. When, years ago, his university heard that one of the most famous botanists in the world, Dr. Hugh Iltis, was coming to visit Veracruz, they appointed young biology-student Cházaro as his guide out in the field.

As they were walking along, the story goes, Dr Iltis would say, “I wonder what plant this is?” And Cházaro would tell him the scientific name. “And what about that one?” And Cházaro knew the name. At the end, it seemed Iltis couldn’t find any plant that Cházaro didn’t already know quite well. As a result, he invited the young student to get his Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, launching Cházaro’s career.

During that long career, Cházaro discovered and described 18 previously unknown species of plant—ten of them agaves—and his work was so well respected among his colleagues that today there are eight species named after him.

Someone has calculated that Cházaro was involved in finding one-third of all the new species of cacti discovered in Mexico since the Conquista.

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