Ipheion 'Rolf Fiedler'

John MacGregor jonivy@earthlink.net
Mon, 01 Dec 2003 01:09:36 PST
on 11/30/03 10:13 PM, Lee Poulsen at wpoulsen@pacbell.net wrote:

> No, I hadn't gotten any replies. However, now that I read John
> MacGregor's reply, I'm even more confused.
> 1. 'Rolf Fiedler' has been known since at least 1978 and even then
> was already named "Tristagma peregrinans"? Why has there been so much
> puzzlement over this species since then?

No.  It was originally believed to be a selected clone of Ipheion uniflorum
and was so marketed (still is in England).  It is so listed in volume 2 of
the New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening (1992) (and the
RHS Plant finder still so lists it).  This reference only treats uniflorum
under Ipheion and nivale under Tristagma, so apparently no one had the
occasion to dig any deeper.  I don't have the 1978 issue of Plant Life in my
own library (my run stops with 1968), so I shall have to go to the
Huntington to find out whether it actually mentions 'Rolf Fiedler' (unless,
of course, someone on this list has it at hand).  Finding the origin and
date of introduction of a cultivar name can often be a tedious process,
requiring a large collection of specialized catalogs in a major botanical

> 2. The entire Ipheion genus was subsumed into Tristagma since at
> least 1963? Is this true? Why hasn't anyone anywhere, currently,
> listed their Ipheion uniflorum species or cultivars as Tristagma
> uniflorum? This is the first I've heard this.

Have you been hiding under a rock somewhere? ;-) They are!  I took the
citations I quoted from the International Plant Names Index, so they are
readily available on the Web to anyone interested in pursuing the matter.
Evidently at least someone besides me has read Plant Life.   Just a quick
Google search for Tristagma uniflorum turned up dozens of reference sites in
several languages whose authors were at least aware of the synonymy:










There are many, many more pages listed.  Try it yourself.  Google can be a
very useful little aparatus. ;-)

> 3. So if the "yellow" Ipheions are all Nothoscordums and the "blue"
> Ipheions are really Tristagmas, then there never were any Ipheions?

Technically, that is correct.  The International Code for Botanical
Nomenclature requires that the earliest name be considered correct unless a
later name is specifically conserved.  The author of Ipheion--Constantine
Samuel Rafinesque (1783-1840) was obviously unaware that Eduard
Friedrich Poeppig (1798-1868) had described a similar plant two years
earlier in Germany. This has happened thousands of times, and accounts for a
large percentage of botanical name changes.  But before the advent of the
computer, there was no speedy method for digging these data out of thousands
of volumes of specialized journals and monographs published in various parts
of the world.  Unless a specialist decides to do a revision of a particular
group of plants and sort out the synonyms, such duplications may remain
unnoticed for decades--even centuries--as happened in this case.  From the
mid-19th century, all published names of plants were listed in Index
Kewensis, but one had to search through thirty-some separate volumes of name
citations to find anything.  It is a long and tedious job (I have spent
hundreds of hours doing precisely this during the ten years I was
horticulturist in charge of the central areas of the Huntington Botanical
Gardens and kept accession records for my areas).  In this case, Traub
obviously did this.  But most nurseries don't have taxonomists on staff, and
even  if they are aware of name changes, all too often they are not inclined
to make out all new labels or to confuse their customers.  And gardeners are
notorious adverse to accept botanists' name changes.

> 4. And what about the Tristagma species that always were Tristagma?
> Do they look like Ipheions? I've never seen them (although I've tried
> to grow some seeds of them recently--Chilean species). Does T. nivale
> look like the various Ipheion species?

I have just grown Ipheion uniflorum (=Tristagma uniflorum) and and 'Rolf
Fiedler', so I can't answer that.  I couldn't find any illustrations of T.
nivalis on the  Web.
> 5. Should we all re-label our Ipheions?


> Should we organize an email
> and letter campaign to tell every mail order nursery around the world
> that offers Ipheions that they are really Tristagmas?  ;-)

That might help speed up the process.  Unless it is picked up by a popular
reference that is widely used like the Sunset Western Garden Book, it may
take a couple more decades for the change to take place in the trade.  (I
revised and wrote new entries for more than 100 genera for the 2000 7th
edition, but I was not assigned Ipheion).

John C. MacGregor IV
Horticultural Consultant
Writer, Photographer, Lecturer
South Pasadena, CA 9103
USDA zone 9   Sunset zones 21/23

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