Hippeastrum identity

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sun, 03 Jun 2018 11:03:59 PDT
Diana Chapman brings up a subject of potential interest to PBS members, 
because we're currently in the later phase of preparing our first 
sponsored publication: "The genus Hippeastrum in Bolivia," by Dr. Raul 
Lara and colleagues. I translated the ms. into English for the purpose, 
so I've read it and seen the photos in detail. It seems clear to me that 
Hippeastrum species are unlikely to be identifiable by the coloration of 
the flowers alone (any more than, say, Calochortus). Moreover, there are 
taxonomic differences that appear to be yet unresolved even in the 
closely studied Bolivian group, and presumably this is true of 
populations in adjacent Andean countries as well, such as the two Diana 
mentions in her first paragraph. As for the Bolivian species Hippeastrum 
yungacense (note the spelling; "yungacensis" would have been the form 
applied to the genus name Amaryllis, in which a certain group of 
botanists placed Hippeastrum for many years), it is one of the more 
widely distributed species and can be presumed to exhibit "different 
amounts of red in the petals," as Diana mentions.

Moreover, a few species of Hippeastrum have been described based on a 
single clone found in cultivation -- a circumstance that worried me. The 
genus has been cultivated for ornamental and ritual purposes since 
pre-Columbian times, and hybridization seems likely to have occurred. In 
addition, the Bolivian researchers were able to rediscover some in the 
wild that had been unknown since a single specimen had been described as 
far back as the 19th century; an appendix to the forthcoming publication 
has photos of the research assistants crossing a swift river on a raft 
and climbing a vertical cliff to get access to one such. Some of the 
species grow in places accessible only by mule trails, up on steep 
slopes, or deep in the forested yungas (a local term for a kind of river 
valley, and the source of "yungacense"). A few are known only from 
gardens where local people have transplanted and maintained them. 
Finally, to be tactful, specimens have been published which other 
botanists do not regard as distinct from more widely distributed species.

I think the forthcoming monograph will go some distance toward resolving 
the view of at least the Bolivian species (some of those described grow 
in other countries as well), but it would be very helpful to see more 
research on this beautiful group of plants. I admire them even if I 
can't grow any of them.

Jane McGary, Portland, Oregon, USA

On 6/3/2018 8:19 AM, Diana Chapman wrote:
> I was recently contacted by someone who tells me he thinks the bulb I 
> have identified as H. machupijchensis is probably H. cuzcoensis. He 
> sent me photographs of both species to back this up, and if the 
> photographs are correct, he is right.  I am not sure how to correct 
> this problem, since I have been selling H. machupijchensis for some 
> time now.  While I do feel that the person who contacted me is 
> correct, and is expert in this area, I often gets e-mails saying 'it 
> isn't' when I list a new bulb.  Who to believe when you can't back it 
> up through the literature?
> This does open the question, though, of how to properly identify 
> Hippeastrums.  I spend a great deal of time double checking identities 
> of the bulbs I sell, but without a proper reference to go to, it is 
> very difficult.  I do not depend on photographs on the internet, 
> firstly because you can't see enough detail, and secondly because 
> there is a great deal of misinformation out there.  I have a complete 
> set of Herbertia, but without an index it is a very slow trawl through 
> the many issues to try to find what you are looking for (which might 
> not even be there).  I have, therefore, had to rely on the identity 
> given to me by the collector the bulbs have come from.  My H. 
> machupijchesis bulbs came originally from Harry Hay in England (now 
> deceased).  His reputation was excellent, although I don't believe he 
> ever collected any of his material in the wild.  It is very easy for 
> mistakes to become compounded when collectors trade material back and 
> forth.  I would say that at least 20% of Hippeastrums I have received 
> this way were not what they were supposed to be, some were species 
> that are very commonly available, or even commercial hybrids.  There 
> is, also, natural variation in a species. I have three different 
> accessions of H. yungacensis, and they all look different, having 
> different amounts of red in the petals, but I feel fairly confident 
> they are all the true species.
> I would much appreciate any input from Hippeastrum collectors.  I was 
> very appreciative when this person not only sent me this information, 
> but sent me photographs of the true species taken in habitat.
> Diana Chapman
> Telos Rare Bulbs
> http://www.telosrarebulbs.com/
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