Crinum information from Dave Lehmiller

Mary Sue Ittner
Thu, 29 Jan 2004 21:59:48 PST
Dear All,

I asked Dave Lehmiller who is an expert on Crinum but not a member of this 
list if he could help with any of the Crinum photos or the questions that 
came up a few weeks ago. He has written me back and given me permission to 
share his comments with the Crinum enthusiasts on the list. So here they are:

"I scanned the Crinum photos and the discussions for January that you listed.

Regarding identity of Crinum, a cultivated bulb of unknown origin is almost 
impossible to accurately identify from a photo.  A photo of just an 
inflorescence in such a situation is next to worthless.  Cultivation 
introduces many artifacts: stunting with smaller umbels and 
disproportionate changes in floral parts when grown in small pots, larger 
umbels than occur in nature if grown in optimal conditions, loss of 
undulations in leaves if overwatered, color changes dues to sunlight and 
temperature, etc.  Then regarding a species, the identity encompasses fruit 
and seeds which are very important diagnostic features, as well as the 
arrangement and structure and composition of the leaves, the movement of 
buds prior to anthesis, the shape and coats of the bulb, the chromosome 
count, etc. -- and now even the DNA content is becoming important.  Photos 
of florescences in decline are of no value either.  Photos ought to be 
pristine, taken shortly after sun rise, before flowers begin to droop, and 
a sequence to show bud motion might help.

  Just distinguishing a hybrid from a species is problematic, because 
hybrid backcrosses can appear very similar to one of the original species 
-- and seed production is not a reliable indicator, because many 
backcrosses are seed fertile.  Some hybrids can resemble other 
species.  Many complex hybrids are also seed fertile, and some are very 
good at reproducing offspring similar to the parent complex hybrid.  And if 
the unknown bulb is a hybrid, then all bets are off -- there are many 
hybrids that appear similar, yet the parent species can be widely divergent.

Now photos of a species in habitat are an entirely different matter.  These 
can often be accurately identified from photos, especially if the flora of 
the locality has been studied, and especially if the photos include 
fruit.  Species bulb obtained from a specific locality and then cultivated 
and photographed can often be identified too, but even this can sometimes 
be a little tricky if the person performing the identity doesn't have field 
experience in the locality.

Many bulbs sold in the past as species weren't true species (various hybrid 
backcrosses, double backcrosses, etc.).  Many reported hybrids involving 
parentage in the past were really just guesses involving the parentage -- 
open pollination in gardens, where there was simultaneous pollination by 
moths at night.  Many species introduced into cultivation were 
misidentified; i.e., there are multiple references to C.kirkii in 
cultivation in the USA from 1900 thru 1965, yet I am certain that it was 
never introduced because none of the bulbs described ever produced seeds 
(and because it is not a desirable bulb; its flowers droop long before 
sunrise in warm climates).  And many hybrids which pass thru one hand and 
then another end up being misidentified.  Multiple times people have sent 
me "species" bulbs that turned out to be hybrids, and several times they 
sent me "new" species bulbs that actually were just bulbs that had been 
introduced into a locality from another part of the world.

A couple of other comments from the January list:
1) The article on Burbank's White Queen with photos is in Herbertia 
39:66-78, 1983.  Hannibal marketed a bulb labeled "White Queen" which 
wasn't Burbank's White Queen; i.e., an impostor.
2) No one knows what encompasses C. scabrum. It was originally published as 
a bulb originating from Brazil, which is impossible since no Subgenus 
Codonocrinum bulbs are indigenous to South American.  It is a very confused 
bulb in horticulture circles; i.e., a grab bag of different bulbs.
3) Crinum mosaic potyvirus: First reported in Australia in 1978 (Pares & 
Bertus, Phytopath. Z. 91:170). Spread to Fiji in 1980 (Brunt, A.A. UNDP/FAO 
Survey in Fiji).  Probably the same virus that has decimated various Crinum 
collections in Hawaii.  Beware bulbs having originated from Hawaii.
4) I am amazed at some of the erroneous identities given to certain photos 
on various Website.

Dave Lehmiller

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