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Re: the number of hosta species

  • Subject: Re: the number of hosta species
  • From: "W. George Schmid" <hostahill@msn.com>
  • Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 18:04:26 -0500

Hi Bill,
There is no short answer to your extremely complex questions. Give me a day or so and I shall put together a brief 101-485 on the synthesis of species and supraspecific units. This will not be a paper for the timid but since there is interest I will provide it. Until then
W. George
----- Original Message -----
From: Bill Meyer
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2002 12:01 PM
To: hosta-open@mallorn.com
Subject: Re: the number of hosta species
Hi George,
        I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't have a very clear picture of where the dividing lines are drawn when trying to determine whether a plant is a separate species or not. Of course, it can be approached from the other end by ruling out those that appear to be crosses between two other species, but what set of factors will determine whether something is a separate species to begin with? I realize that this is open to interpretation and that disagreement has always been the norm. Does the presence of one or more unique and reproducible traits become a requirement? Are seedling batches grown to aid in the determination of species, to see what traits express regularly in further generations and if they are present in all or most examples brought from the wild? We can never really know what happened hundreds of years ago, so if very similar populations appear in isolated areas, they could have been spread by people, so I guess location may not be too important a factor.
         In a related question, do you know if there is a native population of nigrescens, and if so, is the upright nature of the plant that is in the trade present in all or most of them. Having seen OP nigrescens seedlings, I've noticed that many do not show this trait, and have wondered whether the wild population also exhibits a wide variety of forms. These seedlings came from the plant most commonly sold under that name, which I believe came from Japan to Alex Summers some time ago. The other form which has been around some, and is sold by Shady Oaks (which is more glaucous and more folded) also produced some odd seedlings.
                                                                                     .............Bill Meyer
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2002 9:35 AM
Subject: Re: the number of hosta species

Hi all,
Number of species in the genus Hosta: The excellent reply of Zonneveld of February 25 illustrates the fact that the number of true species is always a work in progress. To wit, before Barry Yinger went to Taehuksan to gather seed, no one new about H. yingeri. It is always possible that new species are discovered. So for the time being, Zonneveld's analysis is probably closer to the correct number (if there is one) than the number of species listed in my book. In 1998/1990, to finish my book, I found it necessary to adopt a ``legal'' species definition rather than a theoretical/biological/micro-/macro-morphological one. The legal definition is based on the rules promulgated by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and the list of species accepted and listed in Index Kewensis (which is the undisputed authority for the taxonomic standing of validly published taxa). I am glad that I based my species listing on LEGAL (ICBN) definitions but some folks have repeated my list without digging into my text and realizing that I questioned that list extensively even back in 1990 when I wrote the taxonomy section of my book. Even back then I had doubts about the validity of the number of species then promulgated and if anyone is interested, please reread my comments in my book starting on page 291 through 296. I even intimated that the number of species may be less than the number now given by Zonneveld. Let's remember that there are lumpers and splitters in plant taxonomy. In 1991 I did not want to cause chaos in Hosta nomenclature at a time when no detailed scientific proof was available as to the true nature of the "legal" taxa (species) within the genus. I felt it was more important to reclassify the many "species" which were in fact cultivars, like H. 'Undulata'  and `Tokudama'. a.s.o. Zonneveld and others have done valuable research and it appears that many of the taxa Maekawa published are in fact interspecific hybrids. I will publish an article in the near future, in which I will comment further on this subject. At this point in time I can state that Zonneveld's number is closer to the fact than my number based on Maekawa. I am working with several learned institutions on this matter and when more data are gathered, and together with currently published papers (like Zonneveld's) a better picture will emerge. In the meantime, Zonneveld's number is a very good one to consider and I applaud his valuable research.
W. George Schmid
----- Original Message -----
From: zonneveld
Sent: Monday, February 25, 2002 5:49 AM
To: hosta-open@mallorn.com
Subject: the number of hosta species
Let me quote from my article on hosta species ( the number of
hosta species in the very valuable book of  Schmid of 43 is
mainly based on the article of Maekawa of 1940 with 38
species instead of on the article of Maekawa of 1969 with 27
species or better on the 22 species of Fujita) is:
The number of Hosta species
From the 14 Japanese species recognized by Fujita (1976[18])
H. alismifolia F. Maekawa (= H. longissima x H. montana;
Sugita, 1994) and H. tardiva are shown here to be hybrids.
Two synonyms mentioned by Fujita (1976[18]),  H. rupifraga
and H. rectifolia, are reclassified as species. H. gracillima is
demonstrated here to be a separate species; related to H.
sieboldii, and not a varietas of H. longipes. Further there are
two Chinese species and four Korean species, only casually
mentioned by Fujita (1976[18]). Together with two new Korean
species as mentioned by Chung et al., (1991d[15]), this adds up
to the 23 species accepted here (excluding the newly described
H. albofarinosa, see below). This is similar to the total number
of 22  species for Fujita (14 Japanese + 8 Chinese/Korean
species) or the total number of 22-25 species suggested by
Chung et al., (1991d[15]).

Ben J.M.Zonneveld
Clusius lab pobox 9505
2300 RA Leiden
The Netherlands
Fax: 31-71-5274999
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