Kerria; was RE: L. maximowiczii syn with variety tigrinum

Jim McKenney
Fri, 09 Oct 2009 19:17:51 PDT
Roger Whitlock wrote: " Interesting example: Kerria japonica, first named on
the basis of the double- flowered form acquired from a horticultural source.
It was unassigned to any family because it is so double that the floral
anatomy distinguishing families was obliterated. Only when a single flowered
form was found growing wild was Kerria finally assigned to the Rosaceae."


Roger, this example brought back some memories for me. 


When I was in my twenties I began to acquire books in earnest, often from
English or Continental sources. One prized early acquisition was Gertrude
Jekyll's Wood and Garden. My copy is inscribed ( and dated 1899) on the fly
leaf with the name of the wife of famous early twentieth century


When I was an undergraduate, I had a very unpleasant, disagreeable and ugly
instructor in English. He was, as we would say today, a total control freak:
there was only one way of doing things, and it was his way. Much as I
disliked him, I have to thank him for a habit he imposed on me. He would
assign reading material, and we were to write down and look up all
unfamiliar words we encountered in that material. His tests rarely involved
the content of the assigned reading, but they were sure to test us for the
obscure words. I've kept this habit all of my reading life since, and I
can't thank him enough for this. To this day, whenever I encounter a word I
do not already know, I stop what I’m doing and look it up. 


Thus, when Jekyll's Wood and Garden arrived, I was on the lookout for
obscure words. By that time in my life I already had a grasp of the
botanical names of the usual cultivated plants, certainly of the genera and
often many of the species. Jekyll did not offer many challenges in that
respect: she had done her work well, and we all knew her plant world if not
from reading her works, then from pass along accounts. 


But there was one name which she used which baffled me. On page 50 of Wood
and Garden she mentions "Corchorus with its bright-yellow balls..."; in the
index entry for this citation she expands the name to Corchorus japonicus. 


The genus Corchorus is a good genus of the family Malvacae. But the plant
Jekyll was referring to was not a tender malvaceous plant. She also mentions
this plant (as Corchorus japonicus) in Home and Garden of 1900; my copy of
this also is inscribed with another famous name from the horticultural world
of the time. 


Well, I eventually figured out that her Corchorus japonicus was our old
friend Kerria japonica. 



I Googled Corchorus after writing the above, and I noticed several
interesting things. C. olitorius (one of the members of the malvaceous genus
Corchorus) is evidently sometimes given the vernacular name Jew's Mallow, a
vernacular name also sometimes given to Kerria. So the connection and
confusion continue to this day.      


I don’t much envy the circumstances in which many of the  young people of
today live,  but I do envy their youth and its seeming promise of living for
a lot longer and, given the ease of learning now with the Internet and good
search engines, easily surpassing my generation’s grasp of the world.   



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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