Massonia pustulata Loriesfontein

Paul Cumbleton
Sun, 11 Nov 2012 09:02:37 PST
The Massonia pustulata from Loriesfontein that I sent to Roy Herold were
originally grown from seed originating from Gordon Summerfield (his original
sales catalogue number for this seed was 3820). This form has pale
yellowy-green leaves which are very attractive and quite different from
other forms that have the more usual darker green, purple or mottled leaves.


Earlier this year I spoke at a scientific symposium on the Hyacinthaceae at
Guild ford University. Also attending were a group from the University of
Graz in Austria, including Andreas Brudermann. Andreas presented a poster
session detailing some work they have been recently doing on Massonia
taxonomy and in particular he spoke about Massonia pustulata. They had
noticed that the majority of plants currently grown in cultivation as
Massonia pustulata do not match with the first description and iconotype as
given by Jacquin; he characterizes the species as having wide
perigon-filament tubes, which form a green-blue ring at the entrance. These
characteristics are also shown in figures drawn by both GAWLER and ANDREWS
back in the 19th century. However, those observations contradict those made
more recently by MÜLLER-DOBLIES in 1997 and MANNING in 2002, who described
the perigon-tubes of M. pustulata as narrow. 


The researchers at Graz have been doing phylogenetic studies of Massonia
species (not yet published). They have looked at the DNA of 5 examples of
Massonia pustulata as commonly grown and compared them to one example they
have in their collection which does match the original description by
Jacquin. The 5 samples of the forms most commonly grown all came out showing
little difference in their DNA. However the one example which matched the
original description came out on a different branch of the cladogram
resulting from their work, suggesting it is indeed different.


Their conclusions were that most of what currently goes under the name of
Massonia pustulata in cultivation has little in common with the species as
originally described by Jacquin. It may therefore require describing and
giving a new name. They have adopted a working name of “Massonia
pseudopustulata” for now. The situation will require further investigation
before they can draw final conclusions.


To me, the whole genus of Massonia still seems rather a mess taxonomically
speaking. Hopefully the ongoing DNA work being done not just by Andreas but
also elsewhere will ultimately result in a bit more light being thrown on


Paul Cumbleton

Staines, Middlesex, UK

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