Alliaceae vs. Amaryllidaceae Was: Brunsvigia

J.E. Shields
Thu, 13 Dec 2007 09:26:08 PST
Hi all,

Brunsvigia do not seem to do well under my growing conditions, or perhaps 
under my style of care.  So I can't really comment on them.

I have not read any really recent scientific papers on the justification 
for submerging Amaryllidaceae into Alliaceae, so I'm just going to share my 
personal prejudices here, and some older references.

The molecular phylogenetic trees I have looked at seem to put the two plant 
groups very close together.  However, from my perspective, it will always 
remain useful to refer to a plant family composed just of the 
Amaryllidaceae.  I'm not much interested in Allium!

The clades in phylogenetic trees do not smoothly fit into a hierarchy of 
Order - Family - Tribe - Genus with associated super- and sub- groups.  How 
we take various clades is therefore going to be  subjective matter, and one 
that various committees will no doubt pontificate on from time to 
time.  That is how the system works.  Nevertheless there seem to be few if 
any legal penalties for ignoring the committees.

Professional taxonomists, whose career advancement depends on getting along 
with their prominent colleagues on those committees will clearly need to 
pay attention.  The rest of us can pick and choose what we like from this.

In 1996, in TAXON, Michael Fay and Mark Chase redefined Amaryllidaceae but 
still kept it as a family separate from Alliaceae. [Fay & Chase, TAXON 45 : 
441ff, (1996)]

In 1999, Ito et al. published some work on the matK gene that supported 
Amaryllidaceae as monophyletic, but (in the abstract at least) did not 
address relationship to Alliaceae.  [Ito et al., J. Plant Research, vol. 
112 : pp. 207-216 (1999)]

Also in 1999, Meerow et al. published a paper on Amaryllidaceae and its 
relation to other groups.  They found that Agapanthaceae was a sister group 
to Amaryllidaceae, and that Alliaceae was the sister group to the 
Agapanthaceae-Amaryllidaceae clade. [Meerow, Fay, Guy, Li, Zaman, and 
Chase, AMER. J. BOTANY 86 : 1325-1345 (1999)]

Since both these families are now considered to be in the order Asparagales 
(and I heartily agree!), and the two "families" are pretty certain to be 
very closely related (again I definitely agree), we just need a superfamily 
to include Alliaceae and Amaryllidaceae and a suborder just below 
Asparagales, to include the Alliaceae-superfamily with some of the other 
related clades in Asparagales.

Then again, in October of 2007 (about 2 months ago) Alan Meerow, James 
Reveal, Dee Snijman, and Julie Dutilh posted a proposal to "superconserve" 
the name Amaryllidaceae (1805) over the name Alliaceae (1797) for a merged 
family to contain both groups.  The proposal has been accepted for 
publication in TAXON, and the abstract is on-line at:…

Based on Alan's 1999 paper, the Agapanthaceae would have to be included 
along with Amaryllidaceae in the new enlarged family, be it called 
Alliaceae or Amaryllidaceae.

Interesting, isn't it?

Jim Shields

Searches done using Google Scholar at:…

Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
P.O. Box 92              WWW:
Westfield, Indiana 46074, USA
Tel. ++1-317-867-3344     or      toll-free 1-866-449-3344 in USA

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