Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oh no, not another new Nepenthes species .....

Normally I would rejoice with the news of novel species being discovered and described  but in the case of Nepenthes it sometimes makes me cringe with apprehension. My understanding of taxonomy is rudimentary but I always felt it worked well for some families, like orchids, where the floral features take precedence over vegetative ones - but become rather dicey when it comes to others, notably Nepenthes where the main distinguishing feature is that of the pitcher....

So coming back to this story - it was in the Philippines island of Samar where I spotted these large pitchers dangling on a slope overgrown with Gleichenia ....


In the simpler days, there would only be the widespread and very variable species recognised in this area - Nepenthes alata. However, since this one is bigger and "fatter" than typical alata, I would assume it could be a variant or a hybrid with another endemic, perhaps, Nepenthes merrilliana, which I knew later to be also found on this island. These natural hybrids are not uncommon amongst pitcher plants, as I had pointed out previously.





As it turned out, it was decided sometime in 2013 that N. alata should be split into more than a handful of different species and that the one in Samar should be called Nepenthes graciliflora based on the fact that its pitchers are not hairy, unlike the true alata. But that is not all - this fat and large specimen appeared to be yet another species called Nepenthes samar published on Sept 2013. If you ask me, which you shouldn't,  the line drawing reminds me of N rafflesiana...


Metres away, I also found another plant with more slender pitcher and less jagged peristone. So what is this  - another species nova ? 
Also on the same slope, I found a more conventional looking Nepenthes alata which happened to be totally green. Is it even possible to have 3 species growing on the same slope within a hundred metres apart and not expect any interbreeding?
Maybe I am just lazy but I would prefer to accept their slight differences and lump all of them under Nepenthes alata.

For those keen to dwell on the hazy art of Taxonomy, here's a link to the article describing the new species : 



1 comment:

Titania said...

For me just another splendid, wonderful plant. Yes name giving is
hazardous and changes all the time on a whim! As an old botanist I give you permission to lump them together. Do you grow some of those at home? Coming back to the Australian finger limes, my daughter brought me some from her farm but none contained any seed. She grows a few trees, the fruit are different colours,dark purple and pink, those she brought me were the green ones. Could you obtain some viable seed?

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