Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Positive Identification

Living in the most species rich area of eastern North America may be giving me a headache. The Southern Appalachia has to be a major battle ground between the splitters and the lumpers in plant identification and nomenclature. There doesn't ever seem to be just one of something. There are two or more, all closely related, and they are not in the least bit shy about interbreeding.

This lovely orchid, Goodyera pubescens, Downy Rattlesnake Plantain has a dwarf sibling, Goodyera repens. The difference is that the dwarf species is 1dm smaller and has a fewer flowered, more open raceme. Now how is someone supposed to decide if a plant they see is a dwarf or just not well fed and in a good location?

The general way it seems to work is that a species is wide spread along the east coast up into Canada and then there is "The Other" species in the mountains of North Carolina that mixes with the more wide spread one. I found this patch of Goodyera today that has much bigger leaves than most of the others I have seen here. Maybe I have both.

This is not Dwarf Ginseng or that other Weed. It is a wide spread species of eastern North America, Cutleaf Toothwort, Cardamine concatenata aka Dentaria laciniata. Starting along the moist seeps in the mountain side, it is beginning to carpet the forest floor. "Three other Toothworts occur in the state." Hmmm, should I look closer at these tiny plants?

A quick search reveals that another leaf I have been seeing plenty of in the forest is Cardamine angustata, Slender Toothwort. That's two Toothworts up here so far. This is just another shot of the Cutleaf one.

Here we have Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, maybe. The closely related Claytonia caroliniana is restricted to the rich woods of the mountains and differs only in its elliptic leaves that are 1.5 to 7 cm long.

Oh, the Hepatica! Which one is it? Anemone acutiloba or Anemone americana?

They can both have white or rose colored flowers and there is a quibble over one being able to have pale blue and the other lavender flowers.

The main difference it seems is the leaves. One has more pointed leaf lobes and the other has more rounded lobes with a less pronounced point.

Both can occur in the mountains of Western North Carolina and they are starting to bloom like crazy.

This horticultural Anemone blanda can bloom in a range from pure white, light to deep pink, light blue all the way through to deep purple and it is still Anemone blanda. I like that. I think I would be a lumper.

No one in the garden blogosphere hopefully wants to put incorrect information out there on the world wide web. I sure don't. I also don't like being wrong. I may just need to post a disclaimer on my blog. "Plant species are identified to the best of my ability. It could be wrong, but it is most likely pretty dern close."


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Gorgeous wildflowers.

Annie in Austin said...

Your work is impressive so far, Christopher - and you seem to be in a very active area, botanically speaking.

I could recognize a few wildflowers and trees in Illinois, but once in Austin kept running into plants that seemed to be sort of similar but not exactly. Many have texensis in their names - guess you'll have some with caroliniana.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

chuck b. said...

When I go botanizing, I'm usually content to identify at the genus level and leave it at that. I figure it's your whole life, or it isn't. And, I'm always ready to be corrected.

Frances, said...

Good work, Christopher, but I think it is just beginning, it is still so early, and so much more yet to come. I would have to be a lumper, not enough hours in the day for more than that. You will be bringing the diversity of your mountainside to the blogging community, fame, fortune await!

Christopher C. NC said...

It is just beginning. I am really looking forward to seeing the violets (around two dozen species I've read) and the trilliums (nine in my wildflower book).

To make it easy on myself I could just do Genus caroliniana.

Anonymous said...

GOOOOD Comments here.

I clicked to leave my own but have been waylaid by Annie and Chuck B.

I did the opposite thing as Annie. I did Texas to Illinois. In Texas, I knew many of the native and wild things. You know... out on a ranch... a hunting trip*... boyhood "battles" in empty fields. We "pick up" what this or that is. And then I just assumed (as a boy and then a man) that THOSE species where archetypal. Lupinus texensis (Bluebonnets) are what Lupinus is supposed to look like (in my mind). If anything looked vaguely like my mental archtype, I'd worry no further and I'd store it in that particular mental box.

And then I moved away. And moved again. And again. And again. North. Europe. MidAtlantic. Deep South. Midwest. There are no archetypes anymore. Everything is stange and new and beautiful.

(As much as I bemoan the killing cold here (and it is deadly brutal), northern Illinois is magnificently beautiful and lush. Texas is beautiful too in its own way (and I will always love it, my home) but northern Illinois is moist and Ireland-green (when it is not frozen and Antartic grey).)

So I look closely at things because I cannot EASILY file them away (in my mind) without looking closely. It must be the same for Annie (who looks closely at everything ANYWAY). (And I've learned that the texensis species are almost never archetypal in any way.)

And you, Christopher, have come from Hawaii. Your eyes are OPEN WIDE. I love what you report. Please try to keep that part of you fully open.

Chuck B is wise. I think he's hit the nail on the head. I too am usually happy to get to the genus level when "botanizing" (I love that) unless the particular plants begs for species thinking. (Some genera contain WILDLY DIVERGENT species.) I try to figure out, for example, if a thing is a Lupinus polyphyllus (a "many leafed" Lupin) or a Lupinus perennis (a "wild" Lupin) or a Lupinus texensis (a Texas bluebonnet). You know... like that. Or, more accurately... "It is a Lupinus... maybe perennis and maybe polyphyllus but definately NOT texensis." Like that.

And this brings me to the point I intended to make: I almost never worry too hard about VARIETIES or CULTIVARS in wild things... simply because the task is usually impossible... ESPECIALLY WITH DAFFS.

A while back, I joined the American Daffodil Society. It is inexpensive and I'm glad I did it because every quarter I get The American Daffodil Journal... a beautiful little book. Anyway, EVERY QUARTER a large part of this book (pages and pages of small type) are devoted to NEW DAFF VARIETIES. Thousands and thousands.

"ChrisDaffiStan" (Clydestan?) is overrun with Narcissus. It is a beautiful place (I am seeing). For Daffs, I just want to know the Divsion.

Oh... and Annie's comment triggered one more thought. When I was in Linnaeus' gardens in Sweden last summer, I got wrapped in a conversation with the caretaker... a botany grad student at the affiliated University. She told me something very interesting. In the early 1700s, when the "American" colonies where still very much independant businesses, social experiments, etc, Northern Europeans (Swedes and people with whom Swedish scientists/naturalists might interact) had many words to describe the North American botanical "area." One of those words was "Virginia." Swedes would talk about "Virginia" and NOT mean the area WE think of as Virginia. They would be describing "America." The Swedes named many things, not just Linnaeus. Consequently, MANY THINGS are speciated at "virginia-something."

I know you aren't in Virginia. But you may run across many "virginia-somethings"

Anyway... Linnaeus talked about "Virgina soils" and "Virginia plants." Eastern American is what it means. You.

Here's a photo of a sign in Linnaeus' garden. The garden is a garden of parterres. The sign marked the Autumn Parterre (As Linnaeus called it: the "Area Autumnalis"). It is an area devoted to "Virginia Plants and Soils"

In other words... it might well be devoted to ChrisDaffiStan.

Sorry to carry on so long. I blame Chuck and Annie. Those two take me off off the tracks regularly. As do you do. And Pam. And well... a few others too.

* I don't hunt. That is, I don't like to kill things for fun. But I am in no way ANTI-HUNTING. I just don't choose to do it. That said, I am a BIG FAN of hunting trips. Guns. Beer. Dogs. Trucks. The great outdoors. Food on fires. I love it. I just... uh... "miss." My friends think I'm the worst shot they've ever seen. I have not hit anywhere NEAR any kind of game in over 30 years. ha! (They feel sorry for me... and I accept their pity silently.)

Christopher C. NC said...

NarDaffistan has a nice ring to it or just plain Daffystan.

My college training and North Florida roots do give me an older long unused archtype from which to draw comparisons. It is more rusty than absent.

lisa said...

I like your hepatica! I think mine is 'americana', but here's a bloom picture, and a foliage picture. It looks like the leaves on mine are rounder, and the flowers are quite blue. Plant ID's can give you a headache sometimes, eh?

Christopher C. NC said...

Your leaves do look rounder than the ones left over from last year that I have seen here so far. It must be A. americana. It just seems like last summer I found more rounded leaves. Granted it was an entirely different patch that has not woken up yet. I very well could have both *interbreeding on site*.