|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
No. 131 March 24, 1996
The Annual Meeting of the Northwest Scientific Association took place in Tacoma (Pacific Lutheran University) on March 20, 21, and 22. I attended sessions on "Rare Plants" and on "Puget Through: Biodiversity of an Endangered Ecoregion." The common theme of both sessions was protection of rare taxa and vanishing ecosystems.
I was delighted to see several projects that dealt with long term monitoring of populations of rare plants. Several speakers stressed the need for making good collections of plants (see notes below). Most speakers were concerned about the state of the rare plants protection and about the political process of the so-called "listing" of rare plants. Kathryn Beck and Florence Caplow almost lost their battle with a faulty slide projector, but astonished everybody by reporting new species of Lesquerella and Eriogonum and a new variety of Astragalus conjuctus discovered in the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Their report also showed how difficult it is to get the legal protection for plants in peril (see a note on the rare plant group below).
I was surprised how many people knew about BEN and I was rather embarrassed when they recognized me as the person responsible for this mischief. By the way, when I talked to Margaret Willitts, a new Washingtonian originally from California, I forgot to ask her for her new e-mail address.
In short, the Northwest Scientific Association meeting was a nice opportunity to meet old and new friends. It was really encouraging to see how many good botanical research projects are being conducted in the Pacific Northwest.
It is impossible to over-stress the importance of depositing voucher specimens in a well-curated herbarium. Like all herbarium specimens, these should possess a label that gives the pertinent information concerning the source of the specimen, whether collected from nature or cultivated. If cultivated, the source of the culture should be given.
The essential significance of a voucher specimen is that it serves as a clear indication of the identity of the plant upon which research was based. In the case of a misidentification (or upon a change in the concept of a taxon) the voucher can be utilized to determine the true identity of the taxon. Even relatively cautious scientists can make errors in identification. Ecologists, in particular, need to obtain well-collected and documented specimens that vouch for the identity of a taxon upon which research is based. If immature or otherwise puzzling specimens are the only available plants in the study plots, more complete specimens should be taken from areas outside the plot. Indeed, general collections should be made from the area of the study that would serve as a reference for identity of imperfect specimens. These should be deposited in an appropriate herbarium. Vouchers should be deposited by plant geneticists, cytologists, phytochemists and physiologists. Such vouchers serve not only the identity of the research taxa, but can lead one to the locality from which the taxa were obtained, and the research checked or enhanced. There have been regrettable publications that appear to have misidentified the research taxon, and the lack of a voucher makes it impossible to verify of revise the identity. Such published research is, at best, questionable.
One important thing about vouchers occurs to me, and that is the establishment of firm records of occurrence. With interest in state and local floras, some people at least are beginning to realize the importance of herbarium vouchers for state and county records. I have always been obsessed with this problem because at COLO there were very few or no vouchers for a great many species that had been collected by expeditions and salted away at Harvard and Philadelphia. A lot of my substance has been used up in rediscovering these plants and in borrowing the specimens, which are really vouchers, from the early expeditions. Check lists, I feel, are fairly useless when they are merely lists of names. I want to learn the basis for the record. Another problem with vouchers is the proprietariness of herbaria. It would not hurt herbarium ZZZZ to send the only Colorado specimen to COLO, but it belongs to ZZZZ and no one would ever let it go. I am perfectly willing to let a voucher go to the herbarium for which it is most needed. Why shouldn't this be a part of the unwritten code of ethics?
A persistent voucher problem is that my dear friend Askell Love, in his Chromosome Number reports, said that vouchers of his counts would be either at Montreal, Winnipeg, or Boulder. Damned few of them are at Boulder, and it appears that the Winnipeg specimens must have been thrown out by some assistant eager to clear up messes. Askell's Colorado vouchers are very important, because, unfortunately he accepted his students' identifications of the specimens for which counts were made; some Astragali turn out to be Trifolium and so on! People constantly ask us whether we have this or that voucher, and mostly we do not.
The motive: To bring together botanists working throughout Washington. Many are quite isolated from other botanists and from the academic world of plant taxonomy. Perhaps there is a way to educate ourselves and share information to improve the quality of our own fieldwork and of rare plant botany generally in Washington.
The spirit: An informal group to provide support and information-sharing among rare plant and field botanists in Washington. The group would be open to anyone engaged in fieldwork or rare plant conservation work, regardless of affiliation or employer.
For more information contact: Florence Caplow (360-592-5062) or Katy Beck (360-671-6913).
Eleocharis engelmannii Steud., E. ovata (Roth) R. & S. and E. obtusa (Willd.) Schultes of Eleocharis series Ovatae are distinctive in being CESPITOSE ANNUALS with smooth, brown, lenticular achenes and differentiated tubercles. The southern E. engelmanii is very rare and localized in eastern Canada [according to the New Jepson's Manual it occurs in the Pacific Northwest from CA to WA]. It is distinctive because its tubercle is less than 1/3 as tall as wide, and although it is as wide as the achene, it is depressed so that it is less than 1/4 of the achene height. This species may also be distinguished by its short bristles that do not exceed the achene and by its relatively long, ellipsoid spikelets. Eleocharis ovata has two stamens and the tubercle is less than 2/3 the width of the achene (tubercle 0.30 - 0.48 mm wide when dry). Eleocharis obtusa has three stamens and tubercle more than 2/3 the with of the achene (tubercle 0.52-0.83 mm wide when dry).
In reference to Norman C. Deno ( BEN # 129):
I received a postcard today announcing the First Supplement to "Seed Germination Theory and Practice." It goes for US$15 at the address given. I thought you might find this of use. - Mike Richards
Submissions, subscriptions, etc.: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEN is archived on gopher freenet.victoria.bc.ca. The URL is:
gopher://freenet.victoria.bc.ca:70/11/environment/Botany/ben. Also archived at http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/