|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 469 June 27, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
While processing backlog, we found a collection of Fireweed plants that was named Epilobium angustifolium L. var. typicum Calder f. albomarginatum f.n. This collection was made by James Alexander Calder (no. 2695) on August 20,1948, at Fort Chimo (now Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec near the base of Ungava Bay), 58.11666°, -68.38333°. According to the notes, Calder found four colonies in a "sandy area near camp, and having pink petals with white margins." Calder had selected and designated a holotype, isotype and paratype from his collection, and there are nine duplicate specimens which would have been isotypes if he had published the name. However, he never did publish it, perhaps thinking that it was not sufficiently different from plants with the typical pink flowers to warrant separate recognition. It remained a nomen nudum. The duplicates are available on a first come basisfrom DAO along with other backlog material.
The significance of white-flowered plants which normally have flowers with one or more other colors is variable and debated. They are often rare and thus popular with wildflower enthusiasts. In some cases they have distinct distributions suggesting natural selection. At about the time of Calder's collection, the white flowered Fireweed, f. albiflorum (Dumort.) Haussk., was of interest in prospecting since its occurrence was believed to be associated with certain valuable minerals. It is has been recorded as growing on uranium deposits at Port Radium, Great Bear Lake in Northwest Territories (Mosquin 1966). The white flowers were thought to be a result of radiation and thus of help in finding uranium. Mosquin (1966) stated that white-flowered forms are generally most common in 2n = 18 plants, less common in 2n = 36 plants, and apparently unknown among 2n = 54 plants.
Based on specimens at CAN and DAO and literature reports, the white-flowered forms of fireweed are found in the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. A number of the occurrences are in places where the soil contains locally unusual mineral deposits. In Nova Scotia for example, it is known from a few gypsum mines. As well as the white-flowered form and the form with white-edged petals found by Calder, there is a form with white petals that has contrasting bright red sepals (f. spectabile (Simmons) Fern.).
James Alexander Calder, who made the collection, was a prolific plant collector who collected over 37,600 specimens excluding duplicates (Cody 1990, Cody and Cayouette 1991). His specimens were notable for their excellent quality and detailed ecological data. Calder was in the Fort Chimo area at the request of the Canadian Defence Research Board to assist entomologists in describing the habitats of biting insects. His investigation at Fort Chimo was followed by a report (Calder 1949).
It may be of interest that Fireweed has a number of medicinal uses including the treatment of prostate cancer. It is also the provincial floral emblem of Yukon. It occurs by the thousands following fire in Canada's boreal forest, but plants with white or white margined flowers are definitely unusual as Calder realized. All specimens have a story.
Holmgren, Noel H., Patricia K. Holmgren, James L. Reveal, & collaborators. 2012. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 2, pt. A. Subclasses Magnoliidae-Caryophyllidae. The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx (http://www.nybgpress.org/). ix + 731 p. ISBN 9780893375204 [hard cover], Price: US$150.00
August of 2012 saw publication of the eighth and final volume of Intermountain Flora, Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, thus completing this remarkable series of floristic and taxonomic publications that began in 1968. In addition to the distinguished authors of the current volume (Noel and Pat Holmgren, and Jim Reveal), the Intermountain Flora project has enlisted an honor roll of botanists from the annals of western North American plant taxonomy and floristics: Bassett Maguire (whom the authors attribute as the initiator of the project), Arthur Holmgren (author of several family treatments in the series and father of Noel Holmgren), Arthur Cronquist (Asteraceae specialist, among other talents), and Rupert Barneby (Fabaceae in general, Astragalus in particular).
The Intermountain West can generally be defined as the area between the Rockies and Sierras that lies south of the Snake River and north of the Grand Canyon. Upon opening the book cover of each volume one finds a map with the precise boundaries of the area covered by the project (eastern California, southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, most of Nevada and Utah, and northwestern Arizona. The adjacent page contains a line map of North America with the Intermountain Region boundary placed within that context, along with an Intermountain West map containing the names and boundaries of the constituent floristic divisions and sections. The landscapes here are expansive, many of the mountain ranges remote, and in general the terrain is inhospitable to many human activities. However, as the authors of these volumes remind us, the region is filled with a wonderfully diverse flora.
Volume 2, Part A covers subclasses Magnoliidae, Hamamelididae, and Caryophyllidae in the Cronquistian classification system (Cronquist, 1981), with treatments provided for 31 families, 147 genera, 611 species, and 301 varieties. The largest families for the volume are Polygonaceae, Ranunculaceae, and Chenopodiaceae. As with most floras, the focus is native and introduced taxa growing in the wild, but the authors also provide keys and descriptions for commonly cultivated species that either have or have the potential to escape from garden settings (e.g., there is a key to several species of Magnolia).
The Intermountain Flora series has always been distinctive for the sheer amount of botanical scholarship included in each volume, and this book again meets that lofty standard. In addition to the outstanding keys, extensive synonymy, thorough species descriptions, and exceptional illustrations, one can find a wealth of natural history regarding the flora (I was unaware of the deception involved in Nuphar polysepala pollination), learn the best way
to make high quality herbarium specimens for members of the Cactaceae, gain insights into the ethnobotany of the region, as well as discover which species do well under cultivation.
The measure of any flora is whether it serves the needs of botanists, whether they be in the field, herbarium or lab, and Volume 2, Part A more than meets such needs. Field and herbarium botanists will find exceptionally well-written keys supported by illustrations from the late Jeanne Janish (Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest) and Bobbi Angell, and several other others. Species treatments often include supplemental notes regarding relative abundance, distribution or ecology. Lab researchers are provided with chromosome counts, historical treatments of genera, tribes, and subfamilies, along with suggestions for where future work is needed.
As mentioned, the classification system developed by Cronquist provides the taxonomic framework for the volume, however the authors provide detailed explanations and a generous amount of citations relating this framework to the systems and classifications developed by others, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group [APG III]. This phylogenetic crosswalk provides historical insights into how molecular and morphological studies over the past 30 years have and have not altered the taxonomic landscape of the Intermountain flora. In some instances Volume 2, Part A is consistent with consensus thinking (e.g., splitting out Montiaceae from Portulacaceae), while in other instances it is not (keeping Fumariaceae separate from Papaveraceae; recognizing Mahonia and Berberis as distinct genera; synonymizing Claytonia rubra within Claytonia perfoliata). Decisions such as the latter ones may cause philosophical anxieties for some, but the authors' thorough and thoughtful explanations should help alleviate such reactions.
The authors of Volume 2, Part A begin the book firmly in the 21st Century with a page-long listing of relevant online resources, and end the book in the 19th with a wonderful photo sure to resonate with anyone who has ever done field work or traveled in the Intermountain region. The pages in between bring to conclusion the writing of a flora that began nearly 45 years ago. In the University of Washington Herbarium we have a small shelf on our microscope bench that holds our most commonly consulted floras, with the entire Intermountain Flora series included among them. It is wonderful to now have the full set to consult, and I do consult them regularly. There is substantial species overlap between the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain floras, and I frequently consult the Intermountain Flora keyswhen in search of technical distinctions for species that are difficult to identify. Between the key leads and the species descriptions I almost always find what I am looking for.
Volume 6 will appeal to anyone who is interested in the flora of western North America in general, and the Intermountain region in particular. Students of natural history and botanical illustration will find plenty among the pages to expand their interests and skills. Students will come across several suggestions for the subjects of alpha-level taxonomic studies, and botanists of all stripes will likely find the answer to the perplexing question of what taxon they are looking at in the field or under the microscope.
If one opens Volume 1 of the Intermountain Flora at the University of Washington Herbarium you will find a book review by University of Washington Professor Emeritus Art Kruckeberg from BioScience in 1973. Art is a colleague of all volume authors in the series and an outstanding field botanist in his own right. Art's summary of that volume is just as relevant here: "All in all it is a superb production whose completion will be awaited by users within the region and many other higher plant taxonomists".
See also a detailed review of this monumental work by Rudi Schmid in TAXON 62(3). June 2013: 653-668. Rudi Schmid wrote:
The introduction states (p. 1): "The eight volumes of [the flora] include descriptions of 146 vascular plant families, 898 genera, 3847 species, and 1571 varieties. An additional 426 cultivated species and 551 extralimital taxa are treated in keys and/or discussions. The five largest families are Asteraceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Brassicaceae, and Scrophulariaceae. The five largest genera are Astragalus, Eriogonum, Penstemon, Carex, and Erigeron." "A small Supplement, including a key to all families, a cumulative index, and a brief history of the Intermountain Flora project, will be published within the coming year."
Intermountain Flora is beautifully produced with an effective
format that remained consistent for over 40 years. This tremendous
work-figuratively and literally-is the epitome of the
classical, pre-molecular flora. So much has been said about this
well-known flora that no more need be said here, except: Finis!
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