Locality data

Hannon othonna@gmail.com
Fri, 02 Nov 2012 13:06:52 PDT

Yes, but for every such case how often have you been in the field with a
botanist who confidently affirmed "That is Arisaema species x"? The idea
that so many botanists are crippled without dried specimens for study is
not accurate. A good field botanist may stumble over a few plants in an
area known to him but his direct knowledge of living plants will outweigh
those plants many times over. Some plants show certain characters best when
they are dried (drying blackish, etc.) so it is not a "cop-out" to resort
to identification based on dried material.

To identify a plant in a difficult genus often includes critical comparison
with specimens in the herbarium. Many plants are not difficult to identify
either live or pressed, but some are. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what
we expect from the botanical profession, and if it is at all realistic to
expect them to function perfectly with only living plants. If your botanist
is perplexed by an unfamiliar Phlox, how well would any of us fare with
only herbarium sheets of random Zephyranthes? Are those sheets worthless
because they are difficult to match up with living examples of the same

I note that medical doctors routinely ask for samples that mean nothing to
us visually. That does not invalidate their importance.


On 2 November 2012 12:31, Tony Avent <Tony@plantdelights.com> wrote:

> Dylan:
> I think many of us are bemoaning the fact that field taxonomy is a
> becoming lost skill.  I've lost track of how many times I've shown a
> growing specimen to a taxonomist/botanist and had the effective reply of;
> kill it and smash it...then we'll tell you what it was.  A few years ago, I
> participated in a native plant inventory field count in a wild area near
> us.  I figured I'd take a flowering phlox that I'd found years earlier from
> the Virginia shale barrens in hopes of getting a confirmed id.  The phlox
> was passed around through then hands of 30 different expert botanists
> including botany professors.  After it had a thorough examination by each,
> the group leader declared that is was most certainly in the Polemoniaceae
> family, but after making a herbarium specimen, he might be able to tell me
> more.  You just can't make this stuff up.
> Tony Avent
> Plant Delights Nursery @
> Juniper Level Botanic Garden
> 9241 Sauls Road
> Raleigh, North Carolina  27603  USA
> Minimum Winter Temps 0-5 F
> Maximum Summer Temps 95-105F
> USDA Hardiness Zone 7b
> email tony@plantdelights.com
> website  http://www.plantdelights.com/
> phone 919 772-4794
> fax  919 772-4752
> "I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it myself...at least
> three times" - Avent
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