Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Tue, 30 Mar 2004 15:53:44 PST
First of all, thanks to John Grimshaw for the Leucojum/Acis/Galanthus
update. It's great to hear about this, hot off the press so-to-speak. This
sort of information is one more good reason to be grateful for the
participation on this list of so many people who practice gardening from so
many different perspectives. If everyone else close to the source did a bit
more to publicize such information, it would make it a lot easier for those
of us who don't travel in professional botanical circles. 

I've found the reaction to Mr. Grimshaw's report interesting to say the
least: there is plenty of evidence of two disparate camps trying, badly, to

Unspoken so far is one underlying problem. Science provides evidence for
relationship, and each generation of botanists has resorted to ever more
complex technology to finesse our understanding of such relationships. But
once the science is done, someone has to interpret it. That means someone
has to fit twenty-first century science into the eighteenth century
hierarchical categories of traditional classification. 

And that is the unspoken problem: science can provide insight into how
things are related, but science has nothing to say about those eighteenth
century categories of classification. Science can tell us if spring
snowflake and summer snowflake are more closely related to one another than
they are to other snowflakes. But science does not tell us specifically
that they are related at a generic level. That decision is not a scientific
decision; that decision is the result of a very human opinion. 

The solution reported, i.e. keeping spring snowflake and summer snowflake
as the genus Leucojum and placing the remaining snowflakes in the genus
Acis, with the understanding that this narrower Leucojum is more closely
related to Galanthus than to Acis, is only one of several possible
treatments which would preserve the relationship indicated by the science.
It strikes me as the one which will do the least damage (that's the
non-scientist speaking)  while allowing some needed reorganization (that's
the scientist). I would love to have heard the discussions which must have
touched on the other possibilities: putting them all into one genus, for
instance, or putting Galanthus and the narrow Leucojum together in one
genus and the leaving the Acis sorts as a separate genus. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, zone 7 where Leucojum vernum is still in bloom
and  I'm off to make some new labels as I listen to Dame Joan warble "Must
I my Acis still bemoan..." and wonder if peer review and public outcry will
once again have Acis "inglorious crush'd beneath that stone!"

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