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The Twisted Taxonomy of Arisaema

  • Subject: The Twisted Taxonomy of Arisaema
  • From: "mossytrail" <mossytrail@hctc.com>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2008 16:54:00 -0800

   In my first edition _Field Guide to Wildflowers of
Northeastern and North Central North America_ (how many
times can you use the word "north" in a title?) by Roger
Tory Peterson, he writes of Jack-in-the-pulpit: "There are
variations, which some authorities consider as varieties of
a single species (Arisaema triphyllum); others recognize 3
species: (1) Woodland Jack-in-the-pulpit, A. atrorubens. 
Woods and swamps, most of our area.  Usually 2 leaves (each
with 3 parts), gray-green beneath.  (2) Swamp or small
Jack-in-the-pulpit, A. triphyllum.  Wet soil of coastal
plain and Piedmont from s. New England south.  Usually
smaller, with a single 3-part leaf, bright green beneath. 
Spathe sometimes black inside.  (3) Northern
Jack-in-the-pulpit, A. stewardsonii.  Swamps, bogs; e.
Canada and south in Appalachians.  Tube of spathe corrugated
with white ridges."

   Well!  That sounds all very well on paper; but here I am
in an area where supposedly only the first "species" should
be, yet I see plenty with one or both characters of the
second (single leaf, and/or black spathe interior).  In
fact, generally I only ever see the name A. triphyllum used
for these plants.  I am guessing the other two were
synonymized some time since Peterson published that.

   Oh, well -- on the bright side, at least A. dracontium
never took part in these shenanigans.  But if even the North
American taxonomy had been so muddled (and North America has
been thoroughly botanically explored), one has to wonder how
the multitudinous obscure Asian species will resolve

Jason Hernandez
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