Sounds like this thread is leaning toward the species group discussions
rather heavily now, but it is interesting, hopefully to not just a few of
us. To bad we don't all have photos of wild plants to send. I have
two plants from seed collected in Turkey as "I. germanica" too. I suspect
they will be tetraploids too, and I am anxious to see what they grow into.
All of these plants from wild seed could be valuable in learning more about
these plants. I don't think any truly wild population of tetraploids can
actually ever be called by the name I. germanica though, unless somebody proves
that a type specimen actually was one of these tetraploids, and not a 44
chromosome hybrid after all.
I think in light of Neil and Robert's comments, I should add a few
more. First as to species concept. I think that the concept is
somewhat different with every biologist. We all see different perspectives
and twists to the definition of a species. Personally I think that a
species name should reflect what is seen in natural populations and not be for
mere convenience of classification. If something behaves as a race of a
larger entity, it should be treated as such. However, regardless of what
opinion one has as to rankings, I think it is a crime to ignore a population
that is different just because it is considered "the same" at some level.
As a side note, I think that the endangered species act does recognize
infraspecific taxa such as varieties and subspecies, as well as species
(a very fine line). Many species are derived from hybridization, and
would venture to guess that all species have some history of hybridization, so
it is very difficult to draw the line.
In the case of I. x germanica. I don't think many consider it to be a
real species, myself included. It would have to reproduce itself as a wild
population to qualify, and as far as I know, it does not (???). However,
the designation of I. x germanica is still proper botanically and is still
useful to identify plants with a common heritage.
The big problem with I. x germanica is that it's parents are not defined,
so it is nearly impossible to properly define what it is, or even if all the
clones assigned to the name are really the same.
This is were the populations of TB Iris come into the picture. First,
which are the parents or I. x germanica, and second, how do the named clones
relate in real populations in the wild. I don't think anyone has answered
whether or not all the tetraploid TB's are the same species or not. We
can't define a species based on a few individuals, they have to be studied in
the field. It is quite possible that all the named clones of tetraploid TB
Iris are distinct species, but I seriously doubt it. It seems that most
come originally from the same region, and most are very similar (even if they
are recognizable). They may be one species or several, and I think this
question needs further investigation. I would be very surprised if all the
clones from one of these species all looked the same, even if they came from
exactly the same location. Most wild species have a healthy amount of
individual variation, and most of the TB clones are easily similar enough to
imagine as being variations of one species. Of course that doesn't mean
they really are. This is a question for population studies, not
morphological studies of a few individual plants taken out of context.
I agree with Neil (and I'll be Robert too), in that I would like to see a
lot more information about wild collected plants from the land of tetraploid
I would like to see a living collection of existing "wild" tetraploid
clones all brought together into one place. This would allow for breeding
experiments, better morphological comparisons, and for easier comparative
molecular studies. Of course this still isn't field work, but it would
tell a lot. I'd love to have more of them in my garden too!
Back to the fuzzy distinction between species and lower rankings, and even
hybrids. I can think of several examples of wild populations of plants
that are monoclonal, and which reproduce strictly asexually. Some of these
are sexually sterile, and all indications are that they are of hybrid origin,
perhaps even F1 hybrids. However, many of them are considered as species,
especially the ones that nobody knows the parent species for (perhaps the
parents are extinct?). This is very hard to defend biologically. I
think it is "allowed" simply as a way to file them away within the
system of biological nomenclature and not loosing them as another ignored but
very real hybrid polulation.
I would also be curious to know (but we can't know) if I. x germanica arose
from spontaneous hybridization or as garden hybrids (perhaps accidents).
Personally I suspect that most clones likely are the result of people
introducing foreign species into the range of the 40 chromosome Iris populations
of the Mediterranean. These foreign plants could supply pollen to the wild
plants and the hybrids could easily happen purely by chance. They are so
well adapted to survive that they could easily live on and even spread
vegetatively, and it seems inevitable that they would stand out from the smaller
or less brightly colored wild plants and be moved into gardens as well. Of
course I'm just guessing, but that's the whole fun of it - right?