Status of Calostemma species

Jim Lykos
Mon, 17 Mar 2003 16:23:31 PST
Hi Mary Sue,

I  did some  checking of Flora references today for information about 
changes to the status of  Calostemma species.  There is a very  brief 
treatment  given to Calostemma in the Flora of NSW Vol 4, and  the 
 Flora of  Western NSW. Each only  reference their information to that 
 provided in  'The Flora of Australia" Vol 45 1987, Hydatellaceae to 
Liliaceae, in the  write up by  Ian Telford pp 382-383 on Calostemma.
This particular Volume had 36 contributors - so expertise in  these 
plant families tended to be fairly narrowly based.
Ian Telford actually states that on page  382 that 'the two species are 
maintained here although they may represent colour variants of a single 
species.  Variation in the genus requires investigation.  The seeds are 
apparently bulbils as in Proiphys.....'

I havent found any evidence that the investigation  signalled in  Vol 
45,  has been carried out as there are no references to any other 
authority  or paper after this date.  In fact  other Flora's - that of 
South Australia and Central Australia have retained the  determination 
of two species.  A  really informative  article on Calostemma purpureum 
by Robert Gibson  in Vol 21, No. 171 (June 2002) of  'Australian Plants' 
,  only references Flora of Australia  Vol 45,  and the Flora of NSW  Vol 4.

It is however instructive to read the descriptions given and research 
the geographical distributions of both species  in Vol 45, the fresh 
field  information given by Robert Gibson and identify herbarium 
collection sites via the NAPI.  I believe both authors  provide 
sufficient reasons to really consider them as separate species. The 
really  fantastic  revelation provided by Robert Gibson is  the colour 
variations found  in the separate species and  the hybrid colour forms 
found in the few locations where  outlyer populations exist in close 

Rob Hamilton and I  about a month ago  discussed the remakable 
differences in the bulbs of  C. luteum and C. purpureum that we grow,  
which is like comparing a dumpy jonquil like bulb with another that has 
an  long elongated neck that extends to ground level and drops to the 
bottom of the pot.  Perhaps an appreciation of  their natural habitats 
may explain these adaptations.

Rober Gibson writes ..' Calostemma is endemic to eastern Australia, 
particularly within the Murray - Darling Basin, extending to the 
southern Mt Lofty ranges (South Aust) and scattered populations in 
central South Australia. For many decades the genus was treated as 
having two species: the yellow flowered Calostemma luteum primarily in 
the Darling River basin and the purple flowered C. purpureum in the 
southern and western part of the range. The former commonly occurs in 
deep clays on floodplains and is larger in almost all parts to the 
purple flowered form............The most widespread form has yellow 
 flowers and grows in heavy clay soils on the floodplains..........rare 
plants in the flood plains have diffuse purple pigmentation on the tepal 
....purple flowered plants (purpureum) occur on ridges and commonly 
exhibit a great range in flower colouration....... The most common forms 
have either dark or mid purple tepals with a yellow corona marked 
basally by six maroon stripes...
Robert Gibson outlines the lovely colour variants found and  those of 
the  hybrid swarms  found  where both  the yellow and purple forms grow 
in close proximity.
In reading  this article and that of  Ian Telford, I am struck by the 
fact that we are taking about two distinctive geographical  races -  and 
 that the  investigation into the variation in the genus mentioned by 
Ian Telford has not yet been done.

The pictures  of colour forms found in the genus in Robert Gibsons 
article are simply astounding  and I  recommend that everyone interested 
in this genus in Australia read the article.


Jim Lykos
Mary Sue Ittner wrote:

Dear All,

I believe Dash may know Robert Gibson who wrote the article in Australian 
Plants about Calostemma. Maybe he would be a source for some of these 
beautiful plants. Gibson doesn't really say who decided they were variants, 
not separate species. He does have a reference to the Flora of New South 
Wales (Harden and Frischknecht), Vol. 4, page 107 if some of you have it 
and want to look it up. (1993)

There are some very attracitve ones in the Australian Plants article. There 
is just a tiny one of the white one, but it looks pretty too so Paul you'll 
have to go back or Lyn and take its picture too.

Paul gave me permission to put his pictures on the pbs wiki so I have done 
that. Paul, edit it if you don't like what I said. I took it from the 
article and your posts.…

Mary Sue

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