Identification: "Philodendron barryii" exists only in the minds of some plant sellers!

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by photopro, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I just received another request for information about an "extremely rare" Philodendron sp. known as "Philodendron barryii". I usually receive two or three each year. A few people love to sell this supposedly "rare species" on eBay.

    I'm not sure who started this name, or why they selected that name, but "Philodendron barryii" does not exist in taxonomy. You cannot find it on TROPICOS (a service of the Missouri Botanical Garden), GRIN, ePIC (a service of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London), in any of the journals of noted aroid botanist and Philodendron expert Dr. Tom Croat, in any recognized aroid text, or any scientific source.

    One lady who wrote to me insisted it was "extremely rare" and almost no botanist knew of its existence. That would be really strange since botanists are the people who give plants their names and publish their work in some scientific journal. Collectors give "common names" to plants, and that is likely what someone did to this species. If it really has the name "Philodendron barryii" it has to have been published somewhere! And sources like the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) and the ones named above pick them up quickly. And for certain, some aroid botanist would know the name!

    It is likely that someone, somewhere, decided it would be neat to have a plant named after themselves. I'd bet that person's name was Barry! And once a name gets started all sorts of trusting people just use it, they never check the botanical sources to verify it exists. I run into them all the time with plants such as "Philodendron glaucophyllum", "Philodendron wilsonii", and many others. None of those are real botanical names either, but they are commonly used. As Dr. Croat says, "they are simply made up".

    I can't find a lot of talk about "Philodendron barryii" on the web, but one garden site does have people who love to identify Philodendron sp. with multi lobes as "Philodendron barryii".

    The plant sold on eBay as "P. barryii" is almost certainly Philodendron radiatum. Now, I know some will say "OH NO", "Not Possible". "Philodendron radiatum does not look like "P. barryii". And "Philodendron barryii is a new species". Well, Philodendron radiatum has at least 10 known growth forms! The blade changes constantly as the plant matures. It is variable and has at least two known adult forms! They don't always look alike, and scientists have known that for more than 100 years. But they always produce the same spathe and spadix (inflorescence), thus they are the same species. People just have difficulty accepting that concept in botany. The common believe seems to be, if it looks even remotely different, it just has to be a different species. And that is simply not correct.

    Just a bit of explanation. We all know people who are big, people who are small, have short limbs, long limbs, are obese, dark skin , light skin, red skin, yellowish skin, whitish skin and numerous other variables. But every one of them is a Homo sapiens, a human being! People are variable, and so are many plants, especially aroids. And Philodendron sp. are aroids. Philodendron hederaceum has at least 20 published names! For many years botanists would go intot he field and find the velvety Philodendron with a different sized blade, or slightly different color and texture, and give it a new "scientific" name. After a great deal of research it was discovered there was only one species! So all those other names are now considered synonyms. Yet, people still love to use names like "Philodendron miduhoi", "Philodendron scandens" and lots of others. But sorry, the base species is Philodendron hederaceum. The others are simply synonym names.

    If you are convinced you are growing "Philodendron barryii" you are welcome to use that name, but it is simply a common name. It is not scientific! Here's a lot more information if you are inclined to read it:

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

    But sorry! "Philodendron barryii" is not rare. It does not even exist, unless of course you call it Phildoendron radiatum!

    Hmm. I wonder if I could get away with naming some plant "Philodendron steveii"?
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2007
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    All it takes is a labeling mistake in the potting area at a large grower, with the stock so originating being widely dispersed and re-propagated without the name being checked - the last not a rare thing at all. Wrong or obsolete names may persist in commerce for centuries. A faded label may be mis-read, or labels may fall out of pots or flats, get re-stuck in the wrong one. Another thing that happens is that the author of a binomial gets mis-read as a cultivar name by those who do not know the system. Is there an author of philodendron species names called Barry or something that could look similar? Also, non-hybrid cultivars may be listed without species names between them and the cultivar name. A hybrid cultivar may also be listed as a species. Might there be a cultivar name that looks like Barry?
     
  3. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    If there is, I'd love to know "who", "what", or "where". I spent close to a month trying to run this one down two years ago. I had the help of two botanists and a bunch of plant "nuts". No one ever came up with anything except the real name. But you are certainly correct, it doesn't take much to get a "new" name started. And once it gets on a tag a bunch of people will use it over and over again.

    If someone out there can give me a credible source for "Philodendron barryii" I'd love to know the story!

    One best guess was it started the same way "Philodendron wilsonii" got its start. According to botanist Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in the 1960's or '70's a grower in Miami named Bob Wilson (now deceased) was the owner of Fantastic Gardens. At the time, that was the top tropical plant nursery in South Florida. Bob had a fabulous Philodendron sp. in his collection with big leaves and no name. That plant now grows all over Southern Florida! He jokingly called it "Philodendron wilsonii" when anyone asked, never thinking it would stick. Well, it did!

    That plant name is constantly passed around in horticultural circles and some swear it is the official botanical name. The Miami Herald recently did a short story on how the name came into existence. I had the privilege of helping them out. The actual name is Philodendron subincisum. And that is a true story!
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    That's nothing! Christensen's monograph of Pinus mugo lists 230 validly published scientific names for the species . . . and I bet that's not the worst.
     
  5. photopro

    photopro Well-Known Member

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    I would guess you are certainly correct. Variable species have fooled botanists and plant "nuts" for several hundred years.
     

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