|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 167 June 18, firstname.lastname@example.org Victoria, B.C.|
William Dwight Billings died this past 4 January 1997 ending a long and productive life. He is a person of particular significance for those interested in arctic and alpine research as he was a pioneer in North American plant physiological ecology, and much of his research emphasized problems in alpine and arctic environments.
Working on the pome-fruited members of the Rose Family for the Oregon Flora Checklist, I ran into a controversy which has apparently been brewing (like apple cider?) since pre-Linnaean times: namely, should apples and pears both be placed in the pear genus, Pyrus?
My immediate task in this case, was to provide a name for the wild crabapple of the Pacific Coast. This is our pretty little dark-fruited tree which Peck (A Manual of the Higher Plants of Oregon) called Pyrus diversifolia Bong., and Hitchcock (Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest) called Pyrus fusca Raf. Abrams (Illustrated Flora of the Pacific States) and Thomas J. Rosatti (in Hickman, The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California) both placed the crabapple in Malus, the apple genus, calling the species Malus fusca. (Raf.) C. Schneider.
Pyrus L. was the genus name given to both apples and pears by Linnaeus in Genera Plantarum, 1754; while Malus [Tourn.] Mill. was the pre-Linnaean name used for the apple genus by Tournefort and later adopted by Miller in the 8th edition of his immensely influential Gardener's Dictionary in 1768.
Presumably Peck and Hitchcock, like Linnaeus, the great classifier, felt that the similarities between apples and pears were more important than the differences. There is no doubt that the two groups are rather alike with their fleshy pomes and similar spring blossoms.
On the other hand, I found that the great American botanist and horticulturist, Liberty Hyde Bailey, although originally in the single-genus camp (Manual of Cultivated Plants, 1924), broke away and put apples in Malus and pears in Pyrus in the 1949 edition of this work.
In a charming article in Gentes Herbarum (1949 8:40), Bailey lists six morphological features which he feels can be used to distinguish apples from pears. Several of these are: apple blossoms are mostly borne in umbels and pears in racemes; apple fruits lack stone cells while pear fruits have them; apple buds and young growth are tomentose while pear growth is mostly glabrous. Another distinction noted in Bailey's Manual and also in Flora Europaea (1968) is that Malus styles are usually connate 1/3 to 2/3 their length while Pyrus styles are mostly free.
The modern tendency to separate apples and pears continues to the present where recent papers by experts on the pome-fruited rose family members (for example, Phipps, 1990, Canadian Journal of Botany, 68:2209; and Dickson, 1991, Systematic Botany, 16:363) split the two groups into Malus and Pyrus. I have by no means had the opportunity to study the world's many species of apples and pears, and must rely on experts who have noted differences that separate the two genera.
This has all been rather a long way to go about stating for OFN readers that, for the Oregon Flora Checklist, I have been convinced by Bailey, the editors of Flora Europaea, Phipps, Dickson, and Rosatti in the Jepson Manual, and have decided to call our native Oregon crabapple Malus fusca.
Although all past floras of northern North America have recognized only one species of diminutive water-lily, actually two distinct species occur in the region. The circumboreal Nymphaea tetragona Goergi ranges in North America from Alaska to southeast corner of Manitoba. (There is one old collection from NW Washington - Whatcom Co.: Pond nr. Ferndale, 7 July 1939, Muenscher 10,166.) Nymphaea leibergii Morong is distributed from eastern British Columbia across Canada to eastern Quebec. It ranges just across the US border into Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho.
Within North America both species appear to be rare over most of their ranges except in Alaska, where N. tetragona is common and northern Ontario where N. leibergii is known from numerous sites.
The main distinguishing characters are carpellary appendages on a stigmatic disk. These are long (3 mm or more), flaccid and purplish in N. tetragona, and short (less than 1.5 mm), stiff and greenish in N. leibergii.
Oregon, with its incredible diversity of habitats, is blessed with an enormous variety of plants. Over 4,400 species, subspecies and varieties of native and naturalized plants grow in Oregon from the mild climate of the southern Oregon coast to arctic conditions at mountaintops. The goal of the Oregon Atlas Project is to produce distribution maps of Oregon vascular plants in conjunction with a new Flora of Oregon. The atlas will include dot maps for each species, a series of map overlays (e.g., ecoregions, actual vegetation, potential vegetation, climate zones), and an introductory chapter on factors that influence plant distributions. The Atlas will be available in both printed and computerized forms.
Sources of records include herbarium specimen label data, the Oregon Natural Heritage Program database of rare plant records, and various checklists. We estimate that approximately 167,000 records are available from herbarium specimens housed at Oregon State University (OSC, ORE, WILLU) and another 30,000 are in 28 smaller herbaria scattered throughout Oregon. Species lists from a wide variety of sources will provide hundreds of thousands of additional records. In the database and maps generated from it, vouchered and unvouchered records will be clearly distinguished.
In order to collect additional plant locality information from throughout Oregon, project leaders have divided the state into 174 "blocks" of 12-20 townships. Most blocks are squares 24 miles on a side containing approximately 576 square miles, but they vary in size, especially along the state's borders. The initial goal will be to secure a list that includes one specific locality for each plant species, subspecies, and variety in each block. A Handbook for Field Participants in the Oregon Plant Atlas Project outlines general procedures for conducting field work.
The computerized version of the Atlas will be accessible over the Internet. It will function as a database, allowing users to perform queries in a wide variety of ways. Information for the Atlas is entered into a Paradox 5.0 relational database. The database will later be transferred to a SUN workstation using UNIX software to allow access through the Internet. Users will have the option of viewing locality maps or tabulated information from the database. For example, maps could be generated showing the distribution of one or a group of species, localities where a particular person collected plants, or localities of a plant during a designated time period. The user will be able to move a cursor to a dot on the map and call up the information associated with that location. A variety of base maps will be available, allowing analysis of correlations between broad-scale components of the environment and plant distributions. Users will be the map makers-- maps will be dynamically constructed to user specifications. Data will be periodically updated and maps will reflect the latest information.
The Atlas project is led by a diverse group, including professional systematic botanists and lay botanists, a cartographer and Geographical Information System specialist, a database specialist, and two ecologists. It is coordinated by Scott Sundberg. The project is a partnership between the Oregon Flora Project and the Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO). The NPSO has appointed Bruce Newhouse of Eugene as the NPSO Statewide Atlas Field Coordinator.
Large, enigmatic earth mounds are distributed over surface of Mima Prairie in west-central Washington, about 2 km WSW of Littlerock in southwestern Thurston County. Individual mounds are typically 2.5-12 m in diameter and 0.3 - 2 m high. They consist of organic-rich gravelly sandy loam overlying thick outwash sand and gravel. Various authors have attributed the origin of the Mima Mounds to periglacial processes, differential erosional processes, seismic shaking, and earthmoving activities of pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama).
Subfossil beetle remains recovered from the base of a mound at Mima Prairie consist of species that would be expected in rodent burrows and nests; all but one species are obligate burrow inhabitants. These results suggest the past presence of burrowing rodents (probably pocket gophers) in the mounds, although none live there at present. Whether or not the gophers created the mounds, they may well have been instrumental in maintaining mound geometry until very recently.
[For more on Mima Mounds see pp. 290-304 in Kruckeberg, A.R. 1991. The natural history of Puget Sound country. University of Washington Press, Seattle.]
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