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Re: (yet more) Re: [aroid-l] Epipremnum

  • Subject: Re: (yet more) Re: [aroid-l] Epipremnum
  • From: MossyTrail@cs.com
  • Date: Sat, 08 Nov 2003 01:55:58 -0500

Eugene Hoh <hohe@symphony.net.au> wrote:

>Re. wild  E. aureum:
>Sounds like good news, that it is still common in Moorea - but is much known
>about its ecology , reproduction and genetic variability in the wild? (...well
>maybe it might not be so 'good', if the surviving populations turn out to be
>rather homogeneous?)
>Anyway, if you write that Aroideana piece on E. aureum - it would be excellent
>if you could discuss these aspects of the species, please!

Indeed.  As important as systematics is, I find I am much more interested in a species' "natural history" -- a subject which for many species is nearly impossible to find any in-depth information.  I remember, my last year of undergrad schooling, doing a field study of a Xanthosoma species in Costa Rica with tall, thick trunks like banana, which at that time had not been described or named.  That did not bother me; I concentrated on the insect fauna of its inflorescences -- mostly Mirid bugs feeding on them.  I remember I never saw any of the scarabs which the literature says are the pollinators of Xanthosoma, and perhaps not coincidentally, every developing fruit aborted and rotted before ripening.  Yet there were hundreds of plants in the stand, which was in overgrown pastureland.  Were they spreading asexually?  Were they survivals from the former forest, doomed never to set seed again because the pollinator avoids openings?  Was the pollinator extinct?  In the long run, !
 these questions may prove at least as important as the species' name, description, and systematic relationships.
>
>
>(And a more general rant: )
>I find it disconcerting, but also interesting, to hear that such 'common
>garden' plants we take for granted (not just aroids, but also other socially
>important plants, esp. food crops) are so poorly understood as wild organisms:
>how often they have confused taxonomy and origins, and how often new species
>are described from things only known in cultivation (e.g. Philodendron xanadu,
>Alocasia reginula).

How true!  Surely they, too, once had a place in pre-human ecosystems.  What was it?  How did, say, taro live before it was domesticated?  Was the original wild type more like ssp. esculenta, antiquorum, or aquatilis?  Or were there in fact three wild ecotypes corresponding to all these -- some in hydric, others in mesic habitats?  And what habitat(s)?  Did it used to flower and set seed more frequently than it does now?  What is/was the pollinator?  The fruit/seed dispersal mechanism?

Jason Hernandez
Naturalist-at-Large





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