Locality data

Dietrich Müller-Doblies d.mueller-doblies@gmx.de
Sun, 04 Nov 2012 03:01:08 PST
Dear Tim C,
Could you please consider to give the names of the few botanists you 
know personally "that have worked exclusively from Herbarium sheets"?
You wrote: "There is one particular example of a well known taxonomist 
that was regarded as the world expert in his field that had never been 
in the field during his "rise." When he finally made a trip others that 
were there basically said it was only a photo op."

I think there are very few important taxonomists as your "particular 
example of a well known taxonomist" and these are mostly persons of the 
past, that lived in times, when travelling was far more time consuming 
and a botanist could hardly combine a post as herbarium worker or do 
extensive field work.

Such a "particular example" is John Gilbert Baker (1834-1920), the 
author of most "PBS" species with bulbs and corms in the Liliaceae, 
Amaryllidaceae, Iridaceae etc. (246 publications with more than 8000 new 
plant names). He wrote the vol. VI of Flora Capensis (Haemodoraceae to 
Liliaceae, 1896-1897), the respective vol. of the Flora of Tropical 
Africa (1898) and Flora of Mauritius and the Seychelles (1877) without 
ever having been to Africa, as far as I know.
Usually he did excellent work, but e.g. in Albuca there are great 
errors: He described the same species Albuca tenuifolia 1873 (better 
known until recently as Albuca shawii) again in 1874 as Albuca shawii, 
in 1889 as Albuca trichophylla, in 1891 as Albuca elliottii, in 1897 (in 
Fl. Cap.) as Albuca minima, and in 1904 as Albuca granulata, i.e. 
altogether six times. A funny story of infrageneric taxonomy can be 
added here: he placed these six "species" into three of his four 
subgenera of Albuca.

Adolf Engler (1844-1930) travelled quite a lot: in Northern and East 
Africa, the Canaries, Asia and finally around the world, but most of his 
taxonomy was based on herbarium and greenhouse studies, e.g. quite a 
number of bulbous species from Southern Africa. His travel to Namibia 
was centred on a visit of Welwitschia, were he was guided by Dinter.

Anna Amelia Obermeyer (1907-2001) is in my opinion the second best 
taxonomist of Southern Africa in the field of bolbology. She is a good 
example of a herbarium-centred taxonomist. When she saw the plants which 
my wife and me brought from the field to ask her opinion she complained 
to the PRE director that she also wants to do some field work and she 
was allowed to have an excursion with Inge Oliver (and another lady not 
mentioned as collector) to the Western Cape.
Here is an addition to Leo's "funny story" and another example to 
Alberto Castillo's remark "Leo, you made me remember that on a number of 
occasions when taking LIVING plants to prestigious herbariums, they 
could not ID them, and asked for some time to press and dry them before 
producing a name. ":
A few years before her excursion to the Western Cape, Oberm. had 
published the Gladiolus book (1972), where she had to finish the 
manuscript of the late Gwendoline Joyce Lewis (1909-1967). On this 
excursion it happened that Mrs. Mauve (publishing under her maiden name 
Obermeyer) could not name a flowering Gladiolus. Only when changing the 
nappies of the plant press a few days later she could immediately name 
the flattened Gladiolus specimen. [report of the late Inge Oliver]
In our first paper on Ornithogalum (1982) we published Ornithogalum 
annae-ameliae based on a Compton collection of which Oberm. had sent us 
a herbarium specimen to illustrate what she understands under 
Ornithogalum monophyllum. We can understand that Oberm. did not accept 
this species devoted to her, as she she had a firm herbarium picture and 
experience with this group. But even when we collected Ornithogalum 
annae-ameliae at Compton's type locality and brought it as live plants 
to her she could not change her firm herbarium-based opinion, which she 
had laid down in her Ornithogalum revision of 1978.
In this corner-stone paper of Southern African Ornithogalum taxonomy 
Obermeyer recognized 54 Ornithogalum species. 18 years later in our 
incomplete Revisionula of 1996 we enumerated 123 Ornithogalum species. 
This increase in number by more than the double had nothing to do with 
splitting. On one side we had forty new species and on the other side we 
could resuscitate 26 species from Obermeyer's synonymy. With our field 
experience of some twenty years we had a far better understanding of the 
type specimens quoted by Obermeyer. In fact these 26 resuscitations are 
only a first start of what is still hidden in Obermeyer's Ornithogalum 
synonymy. We had only concentrated on those taxa of which we had 
satisfactory field knowledge. For Ornithogalum suaveolens Obermeyer 
lists eight synonyms, seven of which are good species and the only the 
eights one is error which does even not belong into the subgenus Osmyne 
as defined by Obermeyer. For Ornithogalum juncifolium, however, 
Obermeyer lists even 16 synonyms, of which we only could resuscitate six 
species for the time being, leaving ten names in the synonymy (of which 
several are still good species as we know today).
With similar numbers Obermeyer lists 14 synonyms for Ornithogalum 
graminifolium, of which we only resuscitated a single species for the 
time being.
For Ornithogalum unifolium Obermeyer lists six synonyms, three of which 
were resuscitated by us.
Thus, as it emerges nearly unisonously from the PBS forum on Locality 
data with more than 50 contributions, both research fields, herbarium 
and field work need each other in most cases.

May I conclude with the name of the best taxonomist of Southern Africa 
in the field of bolbology in my opinion, Winsome Fanny Barker 
(1907-1994), who joined the staff of NBG as assistant in 1933, and was 
curator from 1957-1972. She combined herbarium and field work in an 
ideal way. After the notice of a herbarium problem she chose the next 
suitable weekend for a field trip. When she started in 1933 Lachenalia 
comprised about 30 species, when she died she had added about 80 
Lachenalia species. And for most of the new Lachenalia species which 
Duncan published, he could base himself on Barker's preliminary studies 
and herbarium sheets.
With best wishes to all forum contributors

Am 02.11.2012 06:11, schrieb Tim@:
> Dylan,
> I know a few personally that have worked exclusively from Herbarium sheets.  There is one particular example of a well known taxonomist that was regarded as the world expert in his field that had never been in the field during his "rise."  When he finally made a trip others that were there basically said it was only a photo op.
> I am not saying herbarium sheets are useless by any means.  But when you have a multitude of tools at your disposal, sticking to only one is an almost guarantee that your work is nowhere near as useful as it should be.
> Sticking to what I know best, gingers are a prime example of why herbarium sheets can not provide the full picture.  Gingers flowers and often the plants themselves to not hold up well over time.  There has been so much confusion over many species that herbarium sheets just can't solve.  However the type locations along with notes on some of these very old sheets have helped solve some issues when the plants can still be found in the type location.    The best work in this family is done by taxonomists that utilize multiple disciplines.  For example, when a new species is published the journal or corresponding PDF has detailed accounts of the habitat and plant features, a key separating closely related species, molecular work to show where this species falls in within its genus, and if herbarium specimens were found that had been mislabeled or unknown but thought to be of this species they are referenced as well.   In addition to providing pressed specimens, detailed photog
>   phy including good macro shots etc are included. Using all of these tools makes one's work more valid in my mind and less likely to be dismissed by others in the future.
> There are species and genera that MUST be studied in the field, without this work anyone attempting to work on these plants is wasting their time in the long run.   Yes it is difficult and expensive and will take a huge commitment but a true monographing of these genera can't exist without it.
> There is no excuse for publishing new species in this age without significant proof, yet its happening frequently still.  3 new Zingiberaceae genera published in recent times have been shot down within the last year, and several species. (And more in the works I'm told).
> Tim C
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Nov 1, 2012, at 11:14 PM, Hannon <othonna@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Tim C,
>> I don't know any taxonomists who never have stepped into the field, and I
>> have known many dozens of botanists. How did you form this idea?
>> No one would suggest that an herbarium specimen tells the whole story. They
>> are essentially permanent records that can remain useful for several
>> hundred years. In the case of type specimens they form the referential
>> basis for naming plants.
>> Dried specimens are the only practical way to sort through variation, for
>> example, in a species or genus without doing months or years of field work.
>> Herbaria build upon generations of collectors: millions of specimens,
>> records of extirpated populations or species, enabling the replication of
>> previous studies, and on and on. There is no substitute for this, not even
>> DNA samples.
>> "There is always more to see and learn than what has already been
>> documented."
>> Of course. That is why botanists can still find jobs, if they are lucky.
>> Dylan Hannon
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