Eranthis hyemails 'Guinea Gold'
Tue, 18 Mar 2008 12:12:18 PDT
On 18 Mar 08, at 11:59, Jim McKenney wrote:

> There are those who regard nomenclatural matters as mattes of right
> and wrong: in their view, there is only one right way to do things. I
> don’t look at it that way at all.

Oh, come now, what's a little bolshevism between friends?
> I’ve been thinking a lot about winter aconites lately, and these
> seemingly simple little flowers offer some examples of just how
> opinion comes to influence nomenclature. 
> In the heading for this post I’ve deliberately used the provocative,
> benignly provocative I hope, combination Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea
> Gold’.
> Those of you who know your winter aconites know that ‘Guinea Gold’ was
> raised in the early twentieth century and presented to the gardening
> public as a hybrid between what were then known as Eranthis hyemalis
> and E. cilicica. I believe it was Bowles who coined the name
> tubergenii for the hybrid group. Until recently, the usual citation of
> the name would have been Eranthis x tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’.

Janis Ruksans, in his book "Buried Treasure", mentions this plant as 
one he's received from many sources and doesn't think he's ever 
gotten the "real thing." I have a patch labelled "Eranthis × 
tubergenii" that originated at Gothenberg and, afaik, doesn't pretend 
to be 'Guinea Gold'. Its flowers are rather small, but a deep 
saturated yellow, with darkish foliage, just as Ruksans describes.

Since both specific names are validly published, names for this plant 
are valid whether they presume one species or two.

> Some modern botanists regard Eranthis hyemalis and E. cilicica as
> conspecific. In that view, ‘Guinea Gold’ is not a hybrid – at any
> rate, not an interspecific hybrid. That allows it to be cited as
> Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea Gold’: both parents of this cultivar are of
> the species Eranthis hyemalis. 
> There is another formula one encounters: Eranthis hyemalis Tubergenii
> Group ‘Guinea Gold’.  I’m not sure what to make of this combination: I
> assume it is tacit recognition of the existence of more than one
> ‘Guinea Gold’. In this view, if I’ve got it right, although the
> original ‘Guinea Gold’ was a clone, this combination of names
> recognizes that not only does  more than one plant now go around under
> the name ‘Guinea Gold’, but also that the true, original plant is
> seemingly lost in the crowd. 

What that fancy names means is "a particular clone called Guinea 
Gold, which is a one of a flock of similar looking plants, the 
Tubergenii Group, that can be distinguished from run of the mill 
Eranthis hyemalis. Got it?

> Some people throw up their hands in the face of such complexities. I
> relish them as a way of attaining more finely nuanced expressions of
> the relationships involved.  Is one right and the others wrong? I
> don’t think so.  Like everything else in science, the scientific basis
> of nomenclature is an if…then proposition. If you believe that
> Eranthis hyemalis and E. cilicica are discrete species, you write
> Eranthis x tubergenii ‘Guinea Gold’. 
> If you believe E. hyemails and E. cilicica are conspecific, you write
> Eranthis hyemalis ‘Guinea Gold’. 
> If you believe the plants going around under the name ‘Guinea Gold’
> cannot with certainty be attributed to the original clone, then you
> write Eranthis Tubergenii Group ‘Guinea Gold’ or even Eranthis
> hyemalis Tubergenii Group ‘Guinea Gold’. 

Or Eranthis × tubergenii.
> But is one of these right and the others wrong? Get out the boxing
> gloves!

They're all correct. Remember that taxonomy is largely a science of 
opinion, not hard facts, so the only measure of validity is whether 
the publication of a name met the technical rules such as Latin 
description, etc.

My best guess is that the cross has been made more than once and the 
original 'Guinea Gold' is long lost track of in a crowd of 
lookalikes. It probably still exists in some gardens, as eranthis 
seem to be pretty permanent plants, but who knows?

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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