Allium /Nectaroscordum
Fri, 20 May 2011 08:42:19 PDT
On 19 May 2011, at 17:44, Nhu Nguyen wrote:

> All names, as hard as we try, are human construct of what a species should be
> but nature is just not like that. There are variations that keep us guessing. 

That raises a number of interesting topics for debate, some of them quite 
philosophical. Somewhere I've read (weasel word alert!) that most species are 
very well defined with sharp boundaries, hence Amazonian tribes (or is it Papua-
New Guinea? The memory, she fails this morning.) classify their local plants 
into almost exactly the same species as do double-domed four-eyed botanists 
from academia.

That's the case with most plants, but some aren't that way at all. The genus 
Narcissus on the Iberian peninsula, notably the bulbocodium forms, seems to be 
a population currently undergoing speciation, with the result that no two 
authorities agree exactly where the specific boundaries lie - in some cases.

So be of good cheer. Botanical classification actually reflects the way the 
world really is and it's not a matter of everyone having their own reality, 
contrary to Shirley MacLaine's peculiar world view.

Where modern evidence is profoundly upsetting the apple cart is in the 
relationships of one species to another: generic and familial boundaries, not 
specific boundaries. But sometimes I wonder: if you have to run a DNA analysis 
to distinguish visually indistinguishable two taxa, what is the poor field 
biologist or wild flower lover to do?

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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