Identifying Narcissus species

Rodger Whitlock
Sat, 23 Mar 2013 18:42:43 PDT
On 22 Mar 2013, at 10:33, Michael Mace wrote:

> Personal opinion: we won't be able to really make sense of the genus
> [Narcissus] without genetic analysis. 

Personal opinion: genetic analysis won't help much.

It's pretty clear that on the Iberian peninsula, the genus Narcissus is 
undergoing active speciation. The fixed category "species" just doesn't work 
very well under such circumstances, just as it's of questionable utility in 
paleontology. (The paleontological day is saved thanks (a) to the fact that 
only a tiny subset of all organisms is fossilized and (b) per Stephen Jay 
Gould, active speciation is a relatively fast process, so fossilization of true 
intermediates would be rare.

It strikes me that the situation with Iberian narcissus may be like that with 
the Pacific Coast irises, where logging has created "bio-ways" linking distinct 
species and allowing them to hybridize freely. I've read that some of the PCI 
species are actually at risk of being hybridized out of existence.

The usual definition of species is a population of plants that can breed 
together but does not _or_cannot_ breed with other species. When interbreeding 
is prevented by ecological barriers, if those barriers are disrupted, suddenly 
formerly good species stop looking so good.

Human habitation of the Iberian Peninsula goes back some tens of thousands of 
years. It may be that the clearing of forests and similar ecological 
degradation lies at the root of the complexities of Iberian narcissus.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Z. 7-8, cool Mediterranean climate

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