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Describing a new species, type specimens.

  • Subject: Describing a new species, type specimens.
  • From: <ju-bo@msn.com>
  • Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2009 15:03:31 +0000

Dear Daniel,

Just a couple quick notes/comments which may assist you in understanding some of what you are asking about.
Last first---if the population of a certain plant in the wild is encountered, and if it  warrants and allows several specimens at the correct stage of fertility (with blooms), a collector will then select and may collect say 5 or 6 entire specimens from the population which are at the correct stage of fertility. These carefully labeled entire plants (or in the case of a very large species, a folded leaf blade/petiole of a portion of the blade plus photographs) will be prepared and dried as herbarium specimens, and if the plant in question is in fact a new species, this will allow specimens to be sent to different herbariums worldwide as voucher specimens.  This relatively small number of plants taken from a large wild population does not in any way harm a population, in fact more plants (perhaps thousands/millions) are trashed and destroyed daily by clearing of natural forests, the aroids and many other species/genera are lost to EVERYONE for ever by this clear-cutting.
Sometimes a single plant, or say a small population of an exciting or interesting-looking plant, may be discovered and may NOT be at the fertile stage.  Many times, if that plant or population is interesting enough to the collector, one plant or a couple will be collected and brought back alive to a Botanical Garden or even to a private collection where it/they will be cultivated.  IF the person doing the cultivation is experienced or devoted enough, (Dr. Croat and MOBOT are fortunate enough to have greenhouses and devoted and experienced growers like Emily Coletti to work at these difficult tasks on their bahalf), leaves that mature and fall are collected and dried, and when the plant in question blooms, the fertile bloom, at the correct stage (male anthesis) is photographed and the bloom collected, dried and sent to the herbarium in question.  The late Lynn Hannon, who worked extensively with Dr. Croat in Ecuador and who was an excellent plant grower, was able to do a LOT in this regard with wild-collected but sterile plant specimens at her home.  In the end, with enough material (correctly dried leaves, blooms, plus photographs, plus a good written notes of the plant`s features), enough information has been accumulated to enable a GOOD scientific description to be done by an expert like Dr. Croat or Lynn Hannon, and the goal of putting together enough voucher specimens for deposition in other herbariums worldwide has been accomplished.
Concerning your querry about authorship and how it is applied---   I am aware of persons like Dr. Croat, Josef Bogner (Germany), Dr. E.Goncalves (Brazil), Wilbert Hetterschied (Holland) and others who venture to do actual descriptions of new species, all of whom have been either trained or have a LONG history of experience in the plants they are working with and describing.  There are some self-taught taxonomists (such as Josef Bogner (Germany) and Wilbert Hetterschied, and more recently the late Lynn Hannon, Florida (who was self-taught under Dr. Croat`s guideance) who are (or in the case of Lynn were) considered THE experts on a certain genus or related genera, and in the case of the great Josef Bogner, he is considered one of the very few world experts on ALL aroid genera, both living AND fossils!
We must also remember that a manuscript will be submitted to the editor of a legit. journal (such as our ''Aroideana", we have trained Editors like Derek Burch) to be considered for publication, and if the manuscript is not ''up to snuff'', it will be edited or even sent back to the author with requests for further information or corrections to be done, or sent to an expert on the plant`s genus so that the expert can review it and make suggestions which correct/comment on the quality and accuracy of the work.  The editor ensures that the existing rules concerning descriptions have been followed (such as a short description in Latin, though I believe that this requirement is either under discussion or may be eliminated?)
I hope that these notes (though by no means complete) may assist you in understanding a few of the issues.



From: plantguy@zoominternet.net
To: aroid-l@gizmoworks.com
Date: Sat, 3 Jan 2009 23:51:17 -0500
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] New Species Anthurium, sect. Belolonchium

>>Hi Steve and Tom,
Thanks for the replies!!  Unfortunately, the science does not seem "hard" in that the rules are not clear-cut as to how many specimens must be removed from nature and the obvious ethical concerns that causes and the quality of the description does not need to be well done based on Tom's post below.  Honestly, this is a huge shock to me.  This has been very informative for me however and I appreciate the input from the true experts!!
I do have one other question and that regards authorship and how it is applied?  As a basic lab scientist who has published a few papers I generally rely on three important areas that are required for a manuscript to be written and authorship to be granted.  One must either do the science (or some % of it....a vague reality nowadays when science is far more collaborative and authorships are necessary for grants to be obtained and tenure to be achieved, etc), substantially be resposnible for the ideas underlying the science or write the manuscript.  Ideally any author would have done portions of 2 of the 3 above.  Indeed, these are not just my rules, but the rules that are set forth by the Univ. of Pittsburgh for authorship on any published manuscript coming from the institution.  Obviously, obtaining the outside funding from NIH, NSF or a foundation is necessary, but likely the senior author has done that by default.
So, I am wondering how authorship is determined for botanical descriptions such as we are talking about here?  Again, this is way outside my area of research and publishing, but it is an interesting topic for those of us interested in how these new species get published in the first place.
Thanks for taking the time as I realize that not a lot of people have an interest in something this technical.....or maybe they do since we all rely on people like Tom to provide the species names for the plants in our collections :o)
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 12:27 AM
Subject: Re: [Aroid-l] New Species Anthurium, sect. Belolonchium

Thanks Tom!  I had really hoped you would add something to this discussion.  So Dan, there is your definitive answer from the best expert on aroid species there is.

Steve Lucas

Tom Croat wrote:


            Pass this on to Dan Devor! . 

            Finding decent type specimen is actually one of the most difficult tasks of a botanist.  There are lots of new species floating around but you need more than a live plant which does not count for anything according to the rules.  It has to be herbarium material preserved in a recognized herbarium.  Moreover, I insist that the type be widely distributed, meaning a bare minimum of three specimens, one on each continent.  This is to avoid the risk of losing or damaging the specimens by sending them through the mail.  Too often specimens, particularly those of large plants, are collected in sets of one (useless in my opinion).  When I collect and suspect that something is new I try to make as many specimens as possible.  Naturally a good description is nice and commendable but legally there are no demands on the quality of the description, unlike the demand that a collection be preserved. I try to make excellent descriptions with lots of photos as well.  Aroids are confusing enough when you have excellent information so it all helps.


From: aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com [mailto:aroid-l-bounces@gizmoworks.com] On Behalf Of ExoticRainforest
Sent: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 2:16 PM
To: Discussion of aroids
Subject: [Aroid-l] New Species Anthurium, sect. Belolonchium

Hi Daniel, I've been corresponding with Beth about this plant for some time and will attempt to give you an answer.  The type specimen needs to be a plant with known collection data (elevation, forest type, epiphyte or terrestrial) that has been fully described, ie, roots, stem, internodes, cataphylls, blades, veins, inflorescence, infructescence and details on the female and male flowers as well as pollen with detailed information on both the adaxial (upper) surface as well as the abaxial (lower) surface of the blade including the midrib, primary lateral veins and tertiary veins.  The people at the Quito Botanical Garden apparently did not collect field notes when they rescued their specimens which were in danger of being destroyed so that data does not now exist.  They have given Beth an approximate location where it was found and Beth is now working with Dr. Tom Croat to find it in the wild and do the necessary field work to satisfy the publication of a scientific description of a new species.  The senior botanist also grants the plant its name.  One complete leaf must be dried and properly preserved so information can be compared to other known species specimens.  A dried blade may dry a different color than known species or exhibit features not easily seen on a living specimen, thus the need for the comparison.  All that info plus the dried specimen and a living specimen known as the "type specimen" must be deposited in a recognized botanical garden collection.  Of course, Tom will do that work with Beth working as the junior co-author and the dried material and type specimen deposited in the Missouri Botanical Garden living collection of aroid species. 

Genetic analysis is not normally done to publish a scientific description.  The new problem in botany is far too many genetic botanists have little to zero idea what any species looks like in the wild state including natural variations, they only know how to determine a species by using genetic information which is virtually worthless to a field botanist such as Dr. Croat.  Field botany is regrettably a dieing breed of scientist!  If you are armed only with genetic data, how in the world do you know how to recognize a plant in the wild?  You can't easily do a genetic analysis in the middle of an Ecuadorian rain forest.

Hope that helps.

Steve Lucas

Daniel Devor wrote:

Hi Beth,  Perhaps you could explain to a total novice who has never field collected plants what you mean by collecting the "type specimen" and then showing us pictures of plants that are already collected, flowering and fruiting (maybe I mesread and this is a different plant)??  It seems the people at the Quito Botanical Gardens could, if they chose to, compile a complete description of the plant in question, including a proper genetic analysis if they deemed it appropriate.  Are you saying that all that is left to do is find the original field notes for collection local?

Sorry for the naive questions, but I'm just curious :o)

Thanks ,


----- Original Message -----

Sent: Sunday, December 28, 2008 11:19 AM

Subject: [Aroid-l] New Species Anthurium, sect. Belolonchium

Hi folks! As Steve said, I've found this big, ornate-leafed Anthurium, which Dr. Croat says is undescribed, and for which I am doing the fieldwork to collect the type specimen and take the environmental data. He mentioned y'all might like to see it! I took a number of descriptive photos of the specimens that are growing at the Quito Botanical Gardens, and for ease of viewing they live in their own gallery. Here's the address:


I hope to find specimens with mature seed; if not I will have to take cuttings in order to home-culture the plant. When I have viable seed for it, I'll post another message for collectors. As a private citizen, it is very difficult for me to ship live plant matter out of the country, but they have no problem with germplasm.

Steve: I am not normally in the coastal forests, but it looks like I'll get an opportunity to go later this month. I shall certainly keep an eye out for your species, and if I find it I will take wild photos, and the observations you wanted. I can also bug EcuaGenera on your behalf.



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