ISSN 1188-603X

No. 482 October 3, 2014 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O. Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Hans Roemer (email: & Ryan Batten

Accompanying plates:

Western cowbane, Oxypolis occidentalis J.M. Coult. & Rose, was discovered as new to the flora of British Columbia and Canada relatively recently. In 2001 Michael Cheney found a colony of umbelliferous plants in Haida Gwai (Queen Charlotte Islands) that would not fit the description of any Apiaceae then known to occur on Queen Charlote Islands (Calder & Taylor 1968) or in any other parts of British Columbia. A specimen sent to the Royal British Columbia Museum was identified as western cowbane, Oxypolis occidentalis (Cheney et al. 2007, Cheney & Marr 2007). In subsequent years several more localities for this species were found on Graham Island, Haida Gwai. These occurrences were mainly located from the lowland up to ca. 370 m elevations and occupied wet forest openings and seepages within them. By 2004 over 20 localities for the species had become known on Graham Island (BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer).

In 2007 S. Saunders found western cowbane in a similar habitat at 840 m elevation near Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island (BC Species and Ecosystem Explorer). After visiting and photographing this site in 2013 (Fig. 1 and 4) we, accompanied by Libby and Rick Avis, found another six Oxypolis occurrences in 2014 within a distance of two to three kilometers and located at between 850 and 900 m elevation.

These occurrences were in wetlands, some of them partly forested and usually with a slightly moving water table or, where open, on gently sloping seepage sites. All of these sites had high species richness. Complete species lists were recorded for two occurrences, one in a treed wetland with 37 associated vascular plants and one in an open wetland without much woody vegetation with 29. Only 13 species were common to both of these different settings. Most Oxypolis occurrences were found in open wetlands dominated by Cyperaceae including Carex luzulina var. ablata, Eriophorum angustifolium, and Trichophorum cespitosum, Poaceae including Deschampsia cespitosa and Calamagrostis canadensis, and herbaceous species including Fauria crista-gallii, Platanthera dilatata, Veratrum viride, Valeriana sitchensis and Sanguisorba species, among them the rare hybrid-derived Sanguisorba menziesii (Fig. 6). Western mountain aster (Symphyotrichum spathulatum var. spathulatum) was another typical associate. Mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), yellow cedar (Xanthocyparis nootkatensis) and Sitka alder (Alnus viridis subsp. sinuata) were never far from western cowbane occurrences on Vancouver Island.

On casual observation Oxypolis may be confused with several other genera of Apiaceae, such as Berula, Cicuta, Sium and the introduced Pastinaca and this may have contributed to its delayed recognition in British Columbia. Oxypolis occidentalis has a solid rootstock, as compared to the chambered rootstock of Cicuta (Fig. 5). The fact that the genus Berula is absent from Vancouver Island prompted the authors to find a specimen of Oxypolis occidentalis misidentified as Berula erecta. This added an area west of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island to the occurrence list (V 146009). This area remains to be examined for additional Oxypolis sites.

It is only due to the disappearance of some Adolf Ceska's specimens that Oxypolis occidentalis did not become known on Vancouver Island 25 years before it was discovered on Haida Gwai. In 1976 Adolf and Oluna Ceska and Hans Roemer visited a mountainous area on the east side of Vancouver Island's Beaufort Range where A. Ceska collected what can now be confidently named Oxypolis occidentalis. Unfortunately, these particular specimens became lost. However, collecting notes still exist as well as photographs. Figure 8, reproduced from a colour slide, shows a large stand of Oxypolis occidentalis with the same associated species mentioned above for this species, including Lysichiton americanus, Carex luzulina var. ablata and Symphyotrichum spathulatum var. spathulatum. The most likely location of the 1976 site is 25 km southeast of the recently found Oxypolis occurrences in the Mt. Washington area. A first unsuccessful attempt was made in September 2014 to find this site on the basis of the collecting notes. Further efforts to access this area that was originally reached via logging roads that are no longer negotiable are planned.

The following are latitude, longitude and UTM coordinates of confirmed Oxypolis occurrences on eastern Vancouver Island. Field botanists are encouraged to record additional occurrences that are virtually certain to be found in the vicinity of these locations. 10 U 338578 5511691 840m 10 U 337297 5511689 900m 10 U 337136 5511563 900m 10 U 337251 5511001 900m 10 U 337188 5511062 900m 10 U 336611 5510554 910m 10 U 336510 5510537 920m Approximate location and elevation of Port McNeill site (V specimen # 146009): 9U 619620 5606040

A study of Feist & Downie (2008) summarized results of 147 ITS DNA sequences and their article also used the Queen Charlotte Island samples from four Oxypolis occidentalis sites discovered by Mike Cheney. Their "results suggest that populations of O. occidentalis from the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and the Queen Charlotte Islands . are quite different from those of the Sierra Nevada and other more southern mountain ranges . ." "The genetically divergent populations from [the California Floristic Province] could represent a new taxon and another example of a California Floristic Province endemic." It would be interesting to see how the Vancouver Island Oxypolis occidentalis populations would cluster, but we would expect that they would be included in the Oregon-Cascade-Mountains/Queen Charlotte Islands cluster.


BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer -

Calder, J. A., & Taylor, R. L. 1968. Flora of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Part I. Systematics of the Vascular Plants. Research Branch, Canada Department of Agriculture, Ottawa.

Cheney, M., P. Bartier, & B. Johnston. 2007. The Vascular Plants of Haida Gwaii. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Skidegate, British Columbia. 23 p. [pdf file available from Patrick Bartier e-mail:]

Cheney, M. & K. L. Marr. 2007. Cowbane, Oxypolis occidentalis, a new native vascular plant species for the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Canadian Field-Naturalist 121(4): 421-422.

Feist, M. A. E. & S. R. Downie. 2008. A phylogenetic study of Oxypolis and Ptilimnium (Apiaceae) based on nuclear rDNA ITS sequences. Systematic Botany 33(2): 447-458.


From: Cathy Cripps, Montana State University

Ah, what a pleasant way to spend a day: collecting a basket of mushrooms in the morning and identifying them all afternoon. But then what? Should you simply toss them back into the woods or go to the effort of making formal records of your finds which includes drying the various mushrooms for your own collection or depositing them in a fungal herbarium? That next step is a lot of work. And the answer is not so simple---it depends.

Herbaria have been repositories for dried fungal specimens (called vouchers) for 260 years. You can search online for a list in Index Herbariorum ( on the NY Botanical Garden ( website which also has an excellent mushroom collection. You can view photographs of actual dried mushrooms deposited in fungal herbaria on MyCoPortal ( Some herbaria in Europe are housed in underground vaults used to keep the specimens free from other fungi (molds and mildews) that might compromise their integrity. Type specimens are special vouchers that represent the first collection of a species: it is the Holy Grail held up against all subsequent comers. "Types are international standards for scientific names" (Wheeler 2004) and most species are based on a physical specimen although in the early days, an illustration was often used as a poor substitute. Index Fungorum ( keeps track of all the fungal names.

Professional field mycologists routinely process their fungi after capture; as in hunting, the real work begins after the organism is bagged. Immediate descriptions, photographs, and drawings allow us to 'remember' what the fresh mushroom looked like, lest our memories fail us. Color charts provide a way to 'remember' the colors of a mushroom when they fade in our minds over time. The mushroom is then dried to preserve it for further study and this is how 'vouchers' or an 'exsiccatae' are born. Even though wrinkled and devoid of its original shape and beautiful colors, a dried specimen is useful in that the microscopic features are still accessible anytime. Spores, cystidia and other features come to life again under the microscope when soaked in ethanol and plumped up with KOH. They thus become eternal features.

Also, if a fungus is gently dried on a dehydrator (and not in the oven!), the DNA remains intact. What good is this? New molecular methods can be used to access particular parts of the genome for comparison to other fungi and to the Types. This means we can answer all kinds of questions: is the mushroom you found in your backyard genetically similar to the one your cousin found in Norway? Are we all collecting true King Boletes---or are there a number of species? Is your find a new species? It is useful to have 'vouchers' for all these purposes. GenBank ( and Unite (

Databases contain thousands of sequences of sections of their DNA for thousands of mushrooms, and some are associated with an identified voucher. Unfortunately, many are not, so it is more difficult to revisit the organism should questions arise. Descriptive Taxonomy should not be replaced by molecular phylogeny but enhanced by it. And a mere sequence cannot tell us that the mushroom smells like ripe pears or that the stem is covered with soft black velvet. Nothing is a good substitute for Real Mushroom Vouchers that come with an accurate description.

A picture might be worth a thousand words on Mushroom Observer (, but a photograph is still considered a rumor by professional mycologists without a physical specimen (and some say a 'DNA sequence') to back it up. Sure, the photos and personal exchanges provide a lot of other fun benefits, but spores cannot be personally observed and DNA cannot be compared without a physical sample. '_Mushroom Observer_' can play the role of advertising your finds so you can see if they are of interest to others---but, if asked, can you back it up with real fungal flesh? [Only less than 17% of Mushroom Observer observations are supported by voucher specimens. Personal communication from Nathan Wilson to Adolf Ceska]

It is work to prepare a voucher: minimally, the collection should have a 'tag' with some basic information on it. Where was it collected? What was the date? Who collected it? Who tentatively identified it? What was the habitat? The voucher itself might go into a small box or ziplock bag along with the tag. It is seriously helpful if all this is accompanied by a photo or drawing and a description. See for example and its mirror entry in a MyCoPortal herbarium database

Then what? To deposit or not to deposit in a herbarium--that is the next question.

A problem is that Fungal Herbaria are always under financial pressure--and they continually need to justify their existence to the higher authorities that pay the bills, be it a university or a private foundation. It takes money to 'curate' the fungi that are deposited and to pay those who do the work. So a lot of herbaria prefer not to take on added responsibilities or more collections. Some now function merely as museums, others have simply closed. So what is a serious collector to do?

Special finds should still be properly preserved for posterity when possible. We need carefully prepared and labeled vouchers to do good science-so the effort is worthwhile. While a Virtual Mushroom is fun, informative, and interactive, it is not a Real Voucher that can be touched, smelled, tasted, turned over in ones hands, caressed and sequenced-this is myco-reality. Many of you who are serious about collecting should consider saving those special fungal gems, advertising them online, and preparing them for a worthy scientific cause or repository.


Agerer, R., J. Ammirati, P. Blanz, R. Courtecuisse, D. E. Desjardin, W. Gams, N. Hallenberg, R. Halling, D. L. Hawksworth, E. Horak, R. P. Korf, G. M. Mueller, F. Oberwinkler, G. Rambold, R. C. Summerbell, D. Triebel & R. Watling. 2000. Open letter to the scientific community of mycologists: "Always deposit vouchers". Mycorrhiza 10 (2): 95-97.

Ammirati, J. 1979. Chemical studies of Mushrooms: the need for voucher collections. Mycologia 71(2): 437-441.

Korf, R. 2005. Reinventing taxonomy: a curmudgeon's view of 250 years of fungal taxonomy, the crisis in biodiversity, and the pitfalls of the phylogenetic age. Mycotaxon 93: 407-415.

Taylor, Chistopher. The Importance of Vouchers: Even Molecular Workers Need Herbaria. Entomology blog (accessed 2014).

Wheeler, W.C. 2004. Taxonomic triage and the poverty of phylogeny. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London B 359: 571-583.


From: Rudolf Schmid - originally published in TAXON 63(4): 961. From: Rudolf Schmid - originally published in TAXON 63(4): 961.

Lesica, Peter (w/ contribs. by Matt Lavin & Peter E. Stickney). 2012. Manual of Montana vascular plants. BRIT Press, Fort Worth ( viii, 771 pp., ill. (some col.), B&W ep. map, scales, 243 × 166 mm, ISBN 9781889878393 PB, $55.00. - With intro, 16 pp. summary info (hist. bot. explor.; physiogr., geol., climate; veg.; floristics), 14-p. biblio., 7-p. unill. glossary, abbrs. states/provinces, 11-p. key to fam., 691-p. tax. pt., 31-p. index. [2nd printing w/ corrections publ. 28 May 2014.]

As any [US] schoolchild used to know, the four largest states are, in descending rank, Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana (380,831 km˛); the two smallest are Delaware and Rhode Island. The size and varied topography of Montana, "the big sky country," and its intersection of several floristic provinces and geographic regions has resulted in a rather large flora for such a northern state (stats quoted from p. 18): 2512 species (2082 native, 431 alien; NB, = 2513), 2661 total taxa (including infraspecific). These are alphabetically arranged within the 733 genera (586 native, 248 alien; NB, = 734), which in turn are similarly arrayed in the 128 families. These are sequenced "phylogenetically" (p. 2) fide Cronquist, FNA, and, "in a few cases," APG, as Chenopodiaceae included in Amaranthaceae, and Scrophulariaceae dismembered. Lesica cites for APG Peter Steven's website for "Version 9, June 8" [Stevens, P.F. 2001-. Angiosperm phylogeny website. Ver. 12, July 2012 (± continuously updated). (accessed 18 June 2014)].

Lesica's circumscriptions of families presumably is closer to APG III published in October 2009 (see Taxon 59: 1633) than to APG II published in April 2003 (Taxon 52: 652). The largest families and largest genera are the usual suspects: comps, Carex, etc. Matt Lavin and Peter Stickney contributed, respectively, the accounts of Gramineae and Ericaceae.

Illustration is extensive: in rather faint (BRIT-style) B&W over 2000 county maps with a black dot centered in each county (56 total) to show distribution, and 127 full-page plates of plant drawings by Debbie McNiel, Rich Adams, and Claire Emery. The book also has a frontispiece color photo of montane wildflowers, on the title page an unlabeled color relief map of Montana, McNiel's attractive color painting of the state wildflower Lewisia rediviva (bitterroot), and on page 8 a labeled B&W physiographic map.

Descriptions of families, genera, and species are terse and in synoptic form with bolded vegetative and reproductive parts preceding the brief but adequate descriptions. A feature that immediately impresses is the large amount of white space in most keys because the leads of a couplet are generally very short, most leads being less than half a page wide. For example, pages 50-51 for "Group G" (the Englerian Tubiflorae) in the eleven-page "key to plant families" has 48 couplets, with only one lead (number 34) involving two lines. Or, Ribes has 32 one-line leads to its 15 species.

Lesica's "taxonomic philosophy" was to be "more amenable to field botanists" and, "in general, . to err on the side of nomenclatural stability, maintaining names employed by other recent regional manuals unless there is strong evidence otherwise" (pp. 1-2). [For W.A. Weber & R.C. Wittmann's field botanical approach in the nearby Colorado flora see Taxon 62: 202-204.] Lesica's excellent flora of Montana should also be usable in the prairies and mountains of adjacent states and Canadian provinces.

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