ISSN 1188-603X

No. 442 September 19, 2011 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

JOHN K. MORTON (1928-2011)

From: Luc Brouillet (MT) & Richard K. Rabeler (MICH), originally published in the FNA Newsletter 25(1): 14-15.

John Kenneth Morton, a contributor to the Flora of North America, died on January 9, 2011, at his residence in Waterloo, Ontario. He was born in Yorkshire, England, and completed his B.Sc. (1949) and Ph.D. (1953) at King's College, Durham (now the University of Newcastle). From 1951 to 1961, he was a lecturer in the Botany Department at the University of Ghana. He was lecturer at the University of London, U.K., Birkbeck College, from 1961-63, after which he returned to Africa, becoming Professor and Head of the Botany Department at the University of Sierra Leone from 1963 to 1967. In 1968, he came to North America as Professor of Biology at the University of Waterloo, a position he held until he retired in 1994. During his career at the University of Waterloo, he chaired the department from 1974 to 1980 and supervised 11 graduate students, including Luc Brouillet. Richard K. Rabeler also benefited from his expertise; John was the outside examiner on his dissertation at Michigan State University. John published approximately 140 papers, mostly in refereed journals, over his rich career.

In both Africa and Canada, John engaged in taxonomic research, notably using cytotaxonomy and cytogeography, and in floristics and phytogeography. He did extensive fieldwork, collecting a large number of specimens; in North America, much of his work focused on Ontario and number of trips to the southern United States. His personal collection of about 15,000 sheets will be divided, with MO receiving his African material and TRT receiving his other, chiefly North American specimens. Some of his collections are included in WAT, with many duplicates and cytological vouchers also found elsewhere.

Most of his taxonomic work encompassed biosystematic studies in the family Caryophyllaceae, especially the genera Cerastium, Stellaria, and Silene. Cytology was an important component of many of his studies, dating from his early work on polyploidy in the family in Britain and Portugal (Blackburn & Morton 1957: New Phytologist 56: 344-352). His early experiences with these plants in their native European environs also proved useful in his North American work; as an example, John was the first to report Stellaria pallida in North America (1972). He was also interested in the Lamiaceae and in the Solidago canadensis group (Asteraceae). His vast interests also led him to publish An atlas of pollen of the trees and shrubs of eastern Canada and the adjacent United States (1972, 1974, 1976, 1979) with R.J. Adams. In floristics, John became a specialist in the flora of Ontario, producing several works in collaboration with Joan M. Venn: A checklist of the Flora of Ontario, Vascular Plants (1990); The flora of the Tobermory Islands (1987); and The flora of Manitoulin Island and adjacent islands of Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and the North Channel (1977, 3rd ed. in 2000), all published in the University of Waterloo Biology series.

Little known to his fellow botanists, John was also a keen entomologist. He was working on a list of the moths of Manitoulin Island (Ontario); he spent many summers on Manitoulin studying both insects and plants. A large number of his specimens was donated to the National Collection (CNC) in Ottawa.

John was also influential as a conservationist in Canada. Together with Linda Kershaw, he published in the Canadian Botanical Association Bulletin A list of rare and potentially endangered species in the Canadian flora (1976), before much of the enhanced interest in preserving our flora. During his career, he served on numerous committees devoted to the conservation of endangered ecosystems and on recovery programs for endangered ecosystems and the recovery program for endangered species of the Great Lakes.

John was very much involved in the Canadian Botanical Association, which he chairs in 1974, in addition to numerous activities on the Systematics and Phytogeography Committee. He served as editor of the CBA/ABC Bulletin from 1971 to 1979.

John was deeply involved with the Flora of North America project. He was regional reviewer for Eastern Canada region; his extensive knowledge of the Ontario flora was critical here. He also made a seminal contribution as the author of Cerastium, Silene, and Stellaria (Caryophyllaceae), a total of 126 species in Volume 5 (2005).

SAM VANDER KLOET (1937-2011)

From: E. C. Smith Herbarium, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Dr. Sam Vander Kloet, honorary research professor in Acadia's Department of Biology, passed away while on an evening walk in Wolfville, Friday, January 21, 2011.

A long-standing member of the Biology Department, Sam arrived at Acadia in 1972 as an Assistant Professor at the invitation of E.C. Smith, to take on the Directorship of the E.C. Smith Herbarium. Sam had a passion for blueberries and was recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities on this group of plants. This love took him far and wide across the planet in search of near and distant blueberry relatives. This long-life research program resulted in his contribution to Volume 8 of the Flora of North America regarding the taxonomy of the genus Vaccinium and close relatives.

Following his retirement in 2001, Sam continued to pursue his research and actively collaborate with colleagues at Acadia and beyond. Locally he was recognized as the ultimate proponent of active transportation, and could be seen cycling or walking in any weather in any season, including nearly daily trips between Wolfville and the Kentville Research Station. He remained very active on campus and was a constant presence in the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, where he tended his beloved blueberries, offered his expertise and shared his concern for our environment with Garden volunteers, students and visitors.


From: Kristen Harrison, University of Victoria & Richard Hebda, Royal BC Museum [This contribution is a synopsis of Harrison K.R. & R.J. Hebda 2011. A morphometeric analysis of variation between Elymus alaskanus and E. violaceus (Poaceae): Implications for recognition of taxa. Madroño 58(1):32-49.]

Morphological similarity between Alaskan wheatgrass, Elymus alaskanus (Scribn. & Merr.) Löve and Arctic wheatgrass, Elymus violaceus (Hornem.) Feilberg has led to contradictory taxonomic conclusions, and taxonomists have not been in agreement as to whether or not the two are separate species (e.g. Stewart & Barkworth 2001; Barkworth et al. 2007). The issue of distinguishing the two taxa morphologically is illustrated in the two comprehensive treatments covering British Columbia: The Flora of North America (FNA) Volume 24 (Barkworth et al. 2007) and The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia Volume 7 (Stewart & Barkworth 2001). Stewart & Barkworth (2001), recognize only one member at the specific level, E. alaskanus subsp. latiglumis (Scribn. & J.G. Sm.) . Löve (= E. violaceus), whereas Barkworth et al. (2007), recognize two species, Elymus alaskanus and Elymus violaceus. The treatment in the FNA asserts that Elymus alaskanus is differentiated from E. violaceus in having relatively shorter glumes than E. violaceus (Barkworth et al. 2007) and that within E. alaskanus two subspecies can be distinguished based on glume and lemma hairiness: E. alaskanus subsp. alaskanus and E. alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus (Polunin) . Löve & D. Löve.

The FNA treatment regards both taxa as mostly arctic or alpine (sometimes subalpine) species with a northern circumpolar distribution. However, the treatment differentiates between the taxa on the basis of geography saying that in North America, Elymus alaskanus has a more restricted range than E. violaceus. Elymus alaskanus grows across the high arctic of North America to eastern Russia, through Siberia, Alaska, northern U.S.A. and Greenland, and is almost absent from British Columbia. The distribution of E. violaceus extends from Alaska across arctic Canada to Greenland and south in the Rocky Mountains to southern New Mexico (Barkworth et al. 2007: 326). In general, E. alaskanus is thought to be found at lower elevations than E. violaceus (Barkworth et al. 2007).

In our study, we aimed to clarify the relationships between Elymus alaskanus and E. violaceus by performing morphological and biogeographic analyses of herbarium specimens collected from a broad geographic range in northwest North America, and to answer two questions: Can Elymus alaskanus and E. violaceus be regarded as separate species in British Columbia and adjacent regions? And if so, what morphological and geographical characters can be used to discriminate between the species? Our overall objective is to contribute to the development of a consistent taxonomic treatment for E. alaskanus and E. violaceus in northwest North America and advance our understanding of these taxa over their broader ranges. Increased knowledge of the relationship among entities is especially useful in British Columbia because of the widespread geographic overlap of the two species and disagreement over their treatment within the province (e.g. Stewart and Barkworth 2001; Barkworth et al. 2007).

Following univariate and multivariate analyses of the morphological characters used in contemporary treatments, we found no clear character, or combination of characters, that differentiates unambiguously among the taxa at the specific level. However, glume and lemma trichome length reliably separated Elymus alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus from the other taxa. The morphological similarity of the taxa makes it difficult to differentiate among entities. We found, as Barkworth et al. (2007) did, that the glume to lemma ratio of E. alaskanus is significantly less than that of E. violaceus, but the range of overlap is too large for discrimination between the proposed species based on this character alone. Elymus alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus is easily distinguishable from other taxa because this entity has longer glume and lemma trichomes than the other taxa.

Specimens could not be differentiated at the specific level by habitat preferences or geographic distribution as described in the FNA. According to Barkworth et al. (2007), Elymus alaskanus is thought to inhabit lower elevations than E. violaceus. Our analysis indicates a trend for E. violaceus to be at higher elevations below 60 N, but these habitat preferences were not significant. Above 60 N no habitat preferences were detected among taxa. In the past, specimens of E. alaskanus have not been widely reported throughout British Columbia nor as far south as in our study. With the inclusion of recently collected material it appears that the distributions of the two taxa overlap broadly, particularly in British Columbia south of 60 N. However, no E. alaskanus occurs on the coast and E. alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus only occurs north of 60 N.

Deciding how different a taxon must be to warrant consideration as a separate entity guided our study. In order to differentiate between species it is necessary to have a character or combination of characters that can discriminate unequivocally between them and furthermore infraspecific taxa should have clear morphological and ecological distinctions too. Despite a large sample size, wide geographic breadth and inclusion of morphological characters currently used to discriminate between Elymus alaskanus and E. violaceus in the Flora of North America (Barkworth et al. 2007), we did not find any morphological, geographical or habitat differences that would clearly differentiate the two species. In the development of a relevant treatment for E. alaskanus and E. violaceus, we recommend that (i) Elymus violaceus be treated as a subspecies of E. alaskanus, i.e. Elymus alaskanus subsp. latiglumis (Scribn. & J.G. Sm.) . Löve, and (ii) Elymus alaskanus subsp. alaskanus and E. alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus continue to be recognized at the subspecific level.

This study is based on ~300 specimens borrowed from the following herbaria: CAN, UBC, US and V.

Simplified key to subspecies of Elymus alaskanus:

1. Glumes 3/4 as long as the adjacent lemmas..E. alaskanus subsp. latiglumis
1. Glumes 1/3 - 2/3 as long as the adjacent lemmas

     2. Lower glumes and lemmas sparsely hairy .....E. alaskanus subsp. alaskanus
     2. Lower glumes and lemmas densely hairy ..... E. alaskanus subsp. hyperarcticus

Literature Cited

Barkworth, M. E., J. J. N. Campbell & B. Salomon. 2007.
13.13 Elymus L. Pp. 288-343 in Barkworth et al. [eds.] Flora of North America: North of Mexico. Volume 24: Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Poaceae, part 1. New York and Oxford.
Stewart, H., & M. Barkworth. 2001.
Elymus. Pp. 132-135 in Douglas, G.W., D.V. Meidinger & J. Pojar, (eds.). Illustrated Flora of British Columbia. Vol. 7: Monocotyledons (Orchidaceae through Zosteraceae). British Columbia Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management and British Columbia Ministry of Forests. Victoria, B.C.

Send submissions to
BEN is archived at