Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Paph of many names

Paphiopedilum bullenianum was first described in 1865 from plants obtained in Borneo. Over the next hundred years or so, about eight more names have been assigned to the same (according to Phillip Cribb) plant, amongst them a plant known as P. johorense found in Gunung Panti in Johore, West Malaysia. My old copy of the Malayan Orchid Review had an article by K. F. Yap documenting the "rediscovery" of P. johorense in 1963 - at that time Yap was already clear that the so called P. johorense was the same plant as P. bullenianum of Borneo.

Despite the difference in collection locality, the pictures show that my Borneo plant (at the top) is very similar to the Johore plant below, not withstanding the faded colours of the old print. Prior to advances in mass communications, early taxonomists have limited knowlege of database to search for plant specimens to compare with and frequently penned new names for previously described plants. Modern taxonomists sometimes do the same thing. This time, the cause is not due to lack of resources, but more to the degree of tolerance of differences....number of spots on the petals, length of the flower stalk, degree of leaves mottling and the like.

Fortunately such intolerances did not extend to mammals (me thinks)....there would be at least a handful of species of Homo sapiens, elevating the turf war and mayhem that's already happening.

Ref: Slipper Orchids Of Borneo by Phillip Cribb. Natural History Publications.


Hermes said...

Frustratingly (but thank goodness really) plants don't like to conform to narrow taxonomic descriptions They are affected by environmental and genetic variations. Makes it more fun but can be confusing.

Zoƫ said...

agree who heartedly with your sentiment about homo sapiens, such a waste of humanity.

I like the Slipper orchids very much, there is something 'dark' about them.

Wonderful photographs again.

Hort Log said...

o yeah they are dark.....supposed to mimic rotting meat, and the warts look like flies, attracting more of its potential pollinators

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