Natural plant variation within species. A touchy subject!

Discussion in 'Araceae' started by photopro, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    the space required to complete this explanation requires two seperate posts. Read this section and then proceed to the second section just beneath.

    One important note before you read this post. I AM NOT a trained botanist. I make no claim to be a plant expert. I simply have enjoyed for many years scientifically studying the species I collect. All the material presented here has been obtained from personal communication with botanists and by reading and rereading their published material. The basis of this text has been reviewed by several qualified experts. But if you disagree, feel free. The material presented is based on scientific fact

    There is a discussion regarding some beautiful wild taken photographs currently on UBC and within that discussion can be found opinions and queries on the topic of natural variation within a species. Specifically on a beautiful Ecuadorian species known to science as Anthurium angamarcanum. If you haven't see Beth Campbell's beautiful photographs you should take the time to read her thread (Lorax) here: http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=40016

    The topic of natural plant variation is often a "touchy" subject with plant collectors. Many simply refuse to believe that a plant species can have more than one leaf or spathe form. Well, science has known the facts of natural variation for hundreds of years! And it has been the topic of some very hot debates, especially in the early 19th century. Natural variation within a species is however now a very well known scientific subject and is written about frequently.

    The problem that occurs within the world of plant collectors is many collectors simply refuse to try to understand or accept the concept of variation. But variation is not limited to aroids. You can find it in the world of ferns, club mosses, Epiphyllum cactii and many, many species, especially those that are tropical. And tropical plants include a huge number of plants that are now kept as "house plants". If you have more than just a few plants in your personal collection, it is highly likely you possess some that are natural variations of the same species. And I'd be willing to bet you are calling some of them by different scientific names (assuming of course you have attempted to learn their scientific names)!

    i fully expect to receive some personal email on what I'm about to write. For some odd reason there are a few "experts" who read UBC who just love to tell me "you're wrong" but they rarely seem to do it on the forum. Their preferred method is to write a "hot" email and use some unkind comments. So, just to let you know, I'm ready for your mail right now, "let 'er rip". If you were to read my personal email you'd realize that more than a few people who read UBC believe I am totally nuts! I receive mail once or twice every week from someone (especially one individual in the SE United states) who attempt to tell me the concept of natural variation is crazy and they know for certain the scientific plant names they are using are "scientifically" correct. I regret to tell you, sometimes they are not! You are simply using "synonyms" of the same plant.

    I'm going to attempt to explain the subject of natural variation by using common species. Some of this you've likely read within my posts before. I tried to edit this down but it is necessary to divide it into two posts due to the limitations on world length used by UBC.

    Almost every single plant in the world has at least one synonym. So what is that? When a plant is correctly identified to science it is given a scientific name. If the identification is correct to the genus of the species that name becomes a basionym or base name. But even those plants can still have a "basionym" that is wrong as to genus. Here's an example: In the world of aroids any aroid was originally identified in the genus "Arum". When the Linnean system was devised there were few genera for aroids. In the 1700 and early 1800's all botanists thought the only genus name for an aroid was Arum so every plant went into that genus. But as botany progressed many botanists of that era began to learn there were many genera that contain aroids. So plants such as Arum hederaceum became correctly Philodendron hederaceum. The same has happened with Anthurium species, Xanthosoma species and many others. Botanists simply began to understand the world of aroids was much larger and complex than originally suspected.

    But collectors often do not like that approach! And more than once I've found posts or received mail which insists some plant is something other than what it is now known to be because that collector "read" the wrong name in some older text. I won't name the forum, but one other often has such discussions. Regrettably, one of those texts, which can be a great learning tool (the very popular plant guide Tropica by Mr. A. B. Graf) appears to be the source of much of this confusion. Mr. Graf did a wonderful thing by introducing us all to the world of tropical plants, but he was not a botanist! He was a collector. And his texts are filled with errors as to species name. Many are simply made up and do not exist in science.

    If you love Mr. Graf's books, use them. But also understand it has many errors and you must do further research before instantly accepting the names he gives. I am not sure why, but the current publishers refuse to change anything he wrote and simply do not update his texts to make them current with the world of today's botanical science. I spent years chasing a Philodendron he called Philodendron mandaianum. IT DOES NOT EXIST!

    I recently attempted to learn the species name of a still moderately juvenile plant within my personal collection and I received several responses including one from a taxonomist. However, although he was attempting to help, his answer was obviously wrong. Why? He suggested my plant was a variation of Philodendron hederaceum but by examining the plant I could determine that was not possible. Philodendron hederaceum always produces new leaves from a sheath. P. hederaceum always has short petioles. P. hederaceum has a vein that runs towards to the bottom of the leaf, and it is always a scandent climber growing close to the host tree. My plant has none of these features other than it grows relatively close to the host but is not scandent. The petioles are very long, at least 25cm (0 inches) It has every vein running at a 45 degree angle to the side of the blade. And it has more than double the leaf veins of P. hederaceum. And significant other features that cannot be found in the scientific description of P. hederaceum.

    But Philodendron hederaceum does have many variations and is the source of great confusion by collectors. Collectors prefer to call it Philodendron scandens, Philodendron micans, Philodendron miduhoi or one of many other names. But those names are only synonyms of the species Philodendron hederaceum! Collectors just refuse to accept that fact and continue to apply their own conceptions as to which is P. scandens or P. micans or even Philodendron 'Brasil'. But they refuse to call it Philodendron hederaceum as if the name was a disease. Collectors tend to believe if it is to be a "micans" it must have velvet leaves with a distinct heart shaped leaf blade and remain small. Do you know in a rain forest that plant can grow to 48cm (19 inches)? Do you know it can loose that velvet sheen? Do you know the shape of the leaf blade can change? Well, that is the world of natural variation within a species!

    The discussion among botanical scientists about variation goes back at least 180 years. It is a very old discussion that is still argued mostly by plant collectors today. Collectors just don't like the idea of variation. P. hederaceum always has that scandent (close climbing) habit, short petioles, long internodes, deciduous cataphylls which fall from the plant and a solitary inflorescence with normally green spathes that are reddish to purplish on the inside. A cataphyll is the sheath that covers around a newly developing leaf blade. And in nature it does not enjoy low light, the exact way collectors always want to grow it and often grows in bright light.

    Within a large number of aroid species as well as other plant genera there is near constant change. Part is during the life of a single plant and is the ontogeny of the plant or changes observed as that plant grows. Think of it as a child. Children grow all the time and constantly change in appearance. If you just look at your own child you are looking at that change. We often call the changes that occur during the life of a plant morphogenesis (the changes seen as it grows from juvenile to adult). Morphogenesis is the same as ontogeny. But the other change, or natural variation within a single species, is not sudden. It occurs over a very long term which can easily be eons. And that long term variation has created a great deal of confusion and controversy among collectors regarding species. Confusing? Perhaps I can help you to understand the dilemma of natural variation brought upon botanical scientists all by themselves. A dilemma which plant collectors continue to fuss about today.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  2. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    This is the continuation of post 1 just above.

    My personal friend Dr. Thomas B. Croat Ph.D., P.A. Schulze Curator of Botany of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO. once explained in person that if you were to make collections of the species Philodendron hederaceum throughout its natural range, which is quite large and includes Mexico, all of Central America, all of tropical South America and some of the Caribbean, you would find countless slight natural variations. But all those hundreds, possibly thousands of variations, have never been granted their own exclusive name. Only a select few which to a botanist somehow appeared distinct were granted such a scientific designation as P. micans or P. scandens. But the names that have stuck are extremely well entrenched in the minds of plant collectors. As Dr. Croat explained, these natural changes are simply the nature of plant evolution.

    Here is one possible way to understand variation within a species. There is only a single species of human being known as Homo sapiens with many faces and body shapes. Within the jungle world of plants there are many "faces" and shapes to a single species as well. And that is natural variation, a concept botanists now quickly accept. It was perhaps only the botanists of previous eras who often granted different scientific names to a large number of plants that did not "appear" alike. But when it comes to the careful examination of each one of those "species" they all have the same scientific features, especially the sexual features found within the spadix. And that forces a well studied botanist to disregard all the newer names and revert to the basionym name which is correct to genus (base species name).

    The reason? Within the rules of botany it is well established that the very first name ever granted to a species becomes the basionym. But that basionym is subject to change if the first genus proves to be incorrect. Then the new first name correct to genus becomes the basionym and all attempts to rename that plant simply become synonyms once all genus errors are discovered. As a result, all the commonly used names for P. hederaceum known by collectors are now simply synonyms of the base species and are no longer valid within science. They are still sometimes used, but are technically no longer the correct prime species' name. Here is one example of how variation has become an argument which continues today.

    Botanist Heinrich Wilhelm Schott (1794 to 1865) understood the problem of variation within species. He had already transferred Arum hederaceum to the genus Philodendron in 1829. in 1856 Schott also placed Philodendron hederaceum into synonymy under his newly described Philodendron jacquinii. However, he included P. hederaceum in his grex Macrobelium while placing other synonyms of P. hederaceum within grex Solenosterigma. The names transferred along with the first were P. scandens, P. oxycardium, P. micans and
    others. And the discussion on the correct scientific name for this species had begun. But still today, almost 180 years later, plant collectors refuse to accept those changes. It appears that is largely due to the text Tropica or another known as Exotica by Mr. Graf.

    In 1899 botanist Gustav Heinrich Adolf Engler (1844 to 1930) treated the species science now accepts as Philodendron hederaceum as four distinct species which included Philodendron scandens, P. oxycardium, P. micans and a name no longer used. And the debate was now well underway. This quote can be found in a treatment on this subject by Dr. Croat, "Both Engler and Krause erred in treating Arum hederaceum Jacq. as a questionable synonym of P. hoffmannii (= P. jacquinii), citing Jacquin's (1763) t. 152 as the type. Despite the confusion by Engler and Krause, Standley and Steyermark (1958b), in the Flora of Guatemala, correctly dealt
    with the taxonomy of P. hederaceum, citing P. scandens, P. oxycardium and P. miduhoi in synonymy there under. Their treatment of P. jacquinii was incorrect, since they cited that name under the later synonym P. hoffmannii Schott (1858). In this regard they followed Krause (1913). Thus, despite the confusion by Engler and by Krause, the nomenclature of these species was essentially rectified as early as 1958, to the species as P. oxycardium or P. cordatum hort. (non Vell.)."
    Despite that confusion, botanist Julian Alfred Steyermark (1909 to 1988) correctly dealt with the taxonomy of P. hederaceum in 1958 citing P. scandens, P. oxycardium and P. miduhoi as synonyms of Philodendron hederaceum. But then in 1963 botanist George Bunting attempted again to grant a new name that is now clearly understood to simply be Philodendron hederaceum, Other noted botanists have written opinions all along the way about the variation within the species Philodendron hederaceum and it is now considered a settled argument with Philodendron hederaceum being the base species name (basionym). So the problem of incorrect multiple names for a single species has long
    been both debated as well as understood. Attempts were made to correct the problem beginning many years ago and is not something recently created.

    But collectors just don't always like to accept botanical science. Collectors appear to prefer a different name for anything that does not look alike. And they love to believe anything they read on the internet. Sorry, the internet is filled with fantasy and down right distortions of science! There are beliefs posted on the internet (just check some of the other plant forums) that botanists are perpetually toying with names and are "constantly changing" those names. The scientific fact is they are simply following the rules of botany as outlined by Linnaeus and no one has changed anything! These scientists are simply following those rules as defined for centuries by botanical science. "Facial features" of a plant have nothing to do with the name of the species! Plants are simply variable. The final determination of any species is based on the total
    characteristics of that plant including how it grows in nature, node spacing, vein counts and the sexual features of the inflorescence or flower as well as many other internal characteristics. Appearance of the leaf face simply does not apply as a part of a scientific discussion.

    Within a species, especially aroids, the leaves may take on many shapes and sizes. Within the inflorescence the spathe tube may also vary in shape, size and interior color. An example: in the species Philodendron sagittifolium the tube interior may be bright red, subtle red or even white. The tube may be linear or it may be "squeeezed" at the center. There are no set rules and if you don't understand natural variation it is possible to make many identification errors, especially in the field.

    Here's another way to consider it. We know there are many races within our human species but only a single species. With most, the only major difference is skin color or some facial feature such as features of the eyes. But which race is the "basionym" or base species within our highly varied species? Oh would that get complicated and offensive if someone were to claim the Negroid race, or the Anglo race, or the Asian race was the base species and all others needed a new name which science would immediately declare as a "synonym". No one with morals is even going to touch that argument! As a result we are happy to just divide our species into races. But we all also understand that none of those races have any major scientific difference when a doctor is called in to operate. Virtually any well trained physician knows all the body parts of every race!

    So, when a botanist determines there is no scientific difference in Philodendron oxycardium, Philodendron scandens, Philodendron miduhoi and the basionym Philodendron hederaceum we are left only to go back to the first name ever assigned and that name is Philodendron hederaceum in the case of this group of plants. It doesn't work well for plant collectors but it works fine for science. Collectors are the ones that perpetuate the confusion by using multiple names. Botanists did not start a new trend or change the name of anything!

    By now you should all know the differences in some of Lorax' plant photos is simply natural variation. Most of us can quickly accept the concept of natural variation except when groups of plants like "scandens" come around that are among our favorites. We just don't like to have our favorite plant names tinkered with! And the same is true for Anthurium angamarcanum. But there are specific scientific features to that species and I just asked Dr. Croat to help me locate a copy of the scientific description. If I get it, I'll add more to that thread.

    The scientific information within this text was taken directly from the published work of botanist Dr. Tom Croat along with numerous email exchanges and visits. You may still disagree, but it is established scientific fact.

    Note: if you locate my typos in either post, please let me know so I can fix them
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008
  3. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    Re: Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    very well presented, steve! i wonder, could we get these two posts stickied? pretty pertinent info - and worthy of being 'always visible'.

    the variations within the species absolutely fascinate me!! it's not something i was aware of until recently and i'm really looking forward to seeing what plants i have grow and morph!

    i can't duplicate natural conditions all that well, so i'm sure it'll be a while before i really see anything. still, to me, it's worth the wait!
     
  4. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Re: Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    The entire thing is some 17,000 words long, well over the UBC limit. Daniel may know a way to put them together. I'd suggest asking.
     
  5. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor

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    Re: Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    I would have posted the second part as a reply to the first, myself....

    And yes! Please, please here's another vote for STICKIE THIS
     
  6. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Re: Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    Probably a better idea but it is done now.
     
  7. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    Re: Natrual variation with species. Part 2

    yes, i would have posted the second part as a reply to the first one as well...

    well, that can still be done...just quote this one and put it in as a reply on the other one...then this thread can be deleted and the other one stickied.
     
  8. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    All fixed.
     
  9. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Daniel. And thanks for the page placement!

    Steve
     
  10. joclyn

    joclyn Rising Contributor

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    thanks, daniel!!
     
  11. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    Here is what I think is a good example of variation within species.

    These are two forms of Anthurium veitchii.

    The first one is a 'finer' form, where as the 'pleats' are very close together. The blade stays narrow and gets very long. Also has a thinner texture.
    A friend of mine had one with a leaf that was over 5 feet, or close to 2 meters long.

    The second one is what I call the 'normal' form. It's 'pleats' are wider, and it's blade is also wider and shorter. It's texture is thicker too.


    I, too, am a nut for variances within a species!

    Windy
     

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  12. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Uh, Windy? Do you have any "babies" of the first form???? That one is fantastic!
     
  13. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    Yes, I will have more again soon.
    They(fine form) have been prolific this year.
     
  14. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Please............... send me a note when you do!
     
  15. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    I have another example of variations within a species.

    These are different forms of Anthurium warocquenum that I have. Although the differences are subtle, I recognize them, specially when the plants are side by side.

    My friend Karel, who unfortunately just died, and I use to discuss this species' variations all the time.
    He too could see the differences and have similar examples in his collection.

    The first image is the normal form of Warocqueanum.
    Second image is a long form.
    Third image is a blue form.
    Fourth image is blue form next to the black form.
     

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  16. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Again, great examples Windy. I just recently acquired the black form. What a beautiful plant! But all of your specimens are always beautiful.
     
  17. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    Oh Steve, you will enjoy the 'black form'. It is an absolutely beautiful variation of this species. The veins seem even whiter against the blackness of the green coloration, and jump out at you.

    I don't have any trouble growing this form, but some friends in the Miami area of Florida claim they can not grow it. It seems to enjoy slightly cooler weather, so maybe this clone grows at a slightly higher elevation, but that is just speculation on my part.

    Like a proud parent, I thank you for the compliment.
    Windy
     
  18. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Mine has grown about 1 full foot since I received it less than a year ago! I can't wait to see "big" leaves. And the compliment is most deserved. You are the best grower I know! Period!
     
  19. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    I haven't got any form of that plant, but I do like the black form...
    Great examples too Windy

    Ed
     
  20. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    Well Ed,

    Maybe soon you will!

    I have discovered a way to preserve Anthurium seeds and keep them fresh and viable for weeks and weeks, without any fungus problems!

    My discovery was quite accidental, but I think it is going to be a great break through in getting seeds passed around. With my method I have been able to send seeds as far away as Europe and my friend there in France reported that they arrived fresh and sprouted within days of being planted.

    I have written an article regarding this discovery and it is soon to be published in the IAS Newsletter. (Here comes the hook) If any of you are interested in learning about this, please quickly join the International Aroid Society so you can read my article.

    With this method we can begin to share seeds, and increase our Anthurium collection with new species. The only expense will be letter postage and time.

    I will be happy to oblige with excess seeds from my plants, specially to friends from countries with strict importation restrictions.
     
  21. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Although none "look" alike, all of these photos are of Anthurium truncicola England. Botanically they are one and the same. Some of the photos are of juvenile plants, others of adult, and some of semi-adult. An explanation of the species is here:

    http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Anthurium truncicolum pc.html

    The photos demonstrate both natural variation within a species (morphogenesis) known as ontology as the plant ages plus the variation with a single species. But there is more than a single form of the plant found within Ecuador
     

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  22. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    Here's another. This is Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott. There are at least 100 differnet natural variations plus hundreds of man made hybrids of this species. A fuller explanation is here:

    http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Colocasia esculenta large pc.html

    And despite all the claims on the internet that "aroids are deadly poison", this plant has been grown as a food source for at least 10,000 years in China. In both north America and the the Caribbean it is known as Giant Elephant Ear, Elephant Ear, Black Magic, Taro, Wild Taro, Dasheen, Dachine, Black Taro, Dalo, Eddo, Eddoe, Edda, Eddy Root, Green Taro, Coco Yam, Kalo, Callaloo, and Potato of the Tropics. In the Pacific it is Poi and other names. If you've been to Hawaii you've almost certainly eaten it!


    Brian Williams photos are used with permission.
     

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  23. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    And for those who read the material above regarding Philodendron hederaceum which almost all collectors know as Philodendron scandens, Philodendron micans, and Philodendron miduhoi plus Philodendron micans-scandens which is not scientific as well as likely a pile of other names, this link shows photos and has a fuller explanation. Some of the material from this link was used to build the original post:

    http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Philodendron hederaceum pc.html

    I receive mail from plant collectors every week telling me this page is a "pile of trash". If that is your belief, please feel free to believe what you prefer. This page has been botanically reviewed and was written using scientific journals.

    I was even told the page was not "correct" by a university professor just two days ago! That professor has written his own opinion which can be found on the net. As far as I know, he is not a botanist.
     
  24. edleigh7

    edleigh7 Well-Known Member

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    Great discovery Windy, I may be in contact soon...

    Ed
     
  25. gypsytropicals

    gypsytropicals Active Member

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    Hey Ed,

    Please do get in touch with me and I'll fix you up with seeds from several different Anthurium species.
    I have several species setting seed, and am an army of one.
    Currently I have about 30 species needing to be transplanted into their first pots, so I need to tend to these before I put down more seed of the same.
    I am more than happy to share the current developing seeds of duplicate species, because I hate to see them go to waste or become bird food to the visiting wildlife.
    I'll look forward to your message.
    Windy
    exotics@hawaii.rr.com
     

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