Taxonomic Changes--P.2

Mary Sue Ittner
Tue, 01 Jul 2003 10:32:55 PDT
Dear All, but especially Mark McDonough who is bewailing the Chlorogalum 
proposed change,

In  "Consider the Lilies" by Dean G. Kelch in the April 2002 issue of 
Fremontia, A Journal of the California Native Plant Society the California 
genera to be placed in the new Agavaceae are:
Agave, Camassia, Chlorogalum, Hastingsia, Hesperocallis, Hesperoyucca, and 
Yucca. This is a bit mind boggling as we have desert-adapted plants and 
woodland plants sometimes growing in wet places thrown together. Kelch 
writes that desert-adapted plants like agaves could have evolved from a 
woodland herb like Hosta via some intermediate plant resembling 
hesperocallis or polianthes.

He concludes:
"Placing Hastingsia, Chlorogalum, and Camassia in the Agavaceae renders 
that family difficult to identify based on macroscopic characters. It is 
possible that further sampling will identify two related lineages: one a 
desert-adapted Agavaceae and another the forest-adapted Hostaceae (this 
name replaces the illegitimate Funkiaceae). If, as seems likely, these taxa 
are all hopelessly related, we may have to place them in one big, 
dysfunctional family. Until we develop a field lens powerful enough to 
count chromosomes, or invent a pocket DNA sequencer, this group may be hard 
to define based on field characters. However, all included species have a 
rosette of basal, often undulate leaves. The flowers are borne on a raceme 
or panicle, with bracts along its length and subtending the flowers. The 
petals are nearly free, generally being joined at the base."

This last sentence is an example of what in the previous article it was 
predicted would be done, an attempt to make a definition for disparate 
specimens. I think the hard part for many of us is deciding what model to 
follow. Do you change your labels and go with something that cannot be 
easily detected by the naked eye or even a hand lens?

I was having a discussion with a friend who is rewriting a book identifying 
local flora. She has always divided the book by families and was distressed 
about all the changes she'd have to make in the revision and was also 
wondering what the common names were for the new families since she had 
labeled the family names by their common names, not their scientific names, 
just as she describes the plants by their common names although in this 
case she adds the scientific name in small type below. I told her the 
public who uses her book looks at her drawings and pays little attention to 
the families and appreciates that she has divided it by color of the 
flowers. Most of the people who use the book aren't going to care if she 
has included a family name. But she still wants to arrange it in "the 
correct way." In the front of her book she has a key to the families and if 
she continues it in the revision I can see how she might struggle a bit to 
make everything fit.

What are others in this group doing? Changing or holding out for the 
previous order?

And please John Bryan if you respond to this, remove my message so it won't 
be included twice in the digest. Thanks.

And does anyone know what the common name is for the new Themidaceae family 
that Mark is so fond of?

Mary Sue 

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