Lily nomenclature
Thu, 08 Oct 2009 14:59:36 PDT
Firstly all folks kindly as Mary Sue mentioned, I am no expert on anything but I have spent an egregious amount of time, possibly waisted, on researching the nomenclature within the genus Lilium, during that process, through gritted teeth not finished I am sure, there have been turned up in this process something like 700 + and counting synonyms for what may prove to be some 150 taxa at species and subspecies levels tops, those for varietas and forma are where the endless and possibly futile debate rages as to what constitutes any specific taxonomic level, e.g. if its got five spots instead of four it gets given a varietal name, the literature is littered with them, so too are supposed species such as Lilium wilsonii, etc, amongst Japanese lilies which are nothing more than part of the Lilium x elegans complex, all carefully recorded over many centuries by the Japanese but ignored here in the West. In several cases now we have the conclusive aid of those cladastic studies which have looked at many lilies at whatever level one wishes to cast them and the results are inarguable, at least by most folks.

When I started this research I had thought I was in the so called 'lumpers camp' now I am not so sure where I am on this. Taxonomy as we have been comfortable with seems under major reassessment and undoubtedly even greater 'debate or argument' not just confined to the Plant Kingdom is already well under way. For good or ill, my approach for the Monograph will be to stick [a] with the Int. Rule of first publication date, due to the increased facility to access previously unrecorded publications often because they were not in English they have been totally missed however now a great deal of new material is becoming better known allowing for a revision which may or may not be welcome, people will be free then as now to use names as they feel; and [b] what I hope to achieve is an objective assessment based on the results of cladastic studies where available. Who for example would have thought that Lilium auratum var. platyphyllum is much more closely related to Lilium japonicum than it is to Lilium auratum var. auratum but that is exactly what today's science is telling us. Who would have expected that Lilium candidum's long believed closest relative is not Lilium chalcedonicum with which it shares parentage with Lilium x testaceum but that it turns out to be Lilium ciliatum; so far no hybrid has been attempted or exists involving L. ciliatum but I can sense the feelers going out already seeking bulbs of the latter to see who gets into the race first, but I am sure it will not be long in coming!. Interestingly the self same cladastic researches are making clear that the Sections within Lilium with which we are all fairly familiar are under radical revision as a result, the previous over reliance, e.g. on the Martagon shape of flowers, has led Comber, et al. into some strange conclusions, however the man with hindsight would rule the world. What these cladastic studies will enable is a better assessment for pairing off lilies in hybridisation and less frustratingly futile trips up blind allies in the process.

Whatever position one takes there will be dissenters and I apologise in advance but hope to make the best fist of it that my guddled wee brain can eventually manage. I accept there are those for whom any departure from say a name of a species is automatically by default allocated to that of variety. If however in struggling to produce a Monograph on any plant or living 'thing' it is best to make a determined effort to achieve accuracy, always with the caveat that to err is human and that any such effort will always be open to challenge, ce la vie. For me the most egregious example of sloppy taxonomy is where a plant is brought into cultivation under a cultivar name only to be subsequently marketed by Nurserymen through production from seed rather than vegetatively, here in the UK they are open to prosecution for defrauding customers under the Trades Description Act, so far nobody has been as far as I am aware, but it will rightly happen sooner than later. When this is raised with some of the nurseries they simply just don't 'get it' or more likely just don't care just as long as the customer coughs some cash.

In the context of what appears on IPNI = RBG Kew and in association with the USA's Grays, the fact that a name appears there Kew themselves quite correctly are the first to state without equivocation that they are anxious to have corrections and missing entries brought to their attention, something which happens I am told all the time. We now know that every single taxon attributed e.g. to Lilium pyrenaicum as a subspecies and or as a varietas at Kew's IPNI is not possibly so as the science now conclusively demonstrates. There are for example currently familiar species names amongst Chinese lilies which on investigation by myself and others it appears they have never been formally published anywhere, some only mentioned within Institutions whose then political influences prevented them from working within the internationally accepted protocols. How can this be remedied? the topic is under discussion and being dealt with as diplomatically as possible by somebody who lives there now and is highly respected by them.

I hope the above is in some way helpful but I think in future I would be better to keep my counsel because the very last thing I want is to upset anyone, life is just too short and there are way too many nice folk around to inadvertently upset any of them.


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