Archive for the ‘Taxonomy’ category

Learn New York’s Trees, Shrubs, and Vines at Landis Arboretum’s New Native Plant Collection

March 23, 2012

Landis Arboretum, high on a hilltop above the Village of Esperance in Schoharie County, is the best place to see New York’s native trees, shrubs, and vines thanks to the hard work of Ed Miller, volunteer curator of the native plant collection.  At last count, Ed had planted well over 200 species, omitting noxious, alpine, and rare and endangered plants as well as many from the coastal plain that wouldn’t grow well there. Even so, there are species like tupelo, red bud, cucumber magnolia, and persimmon that seem to be doing well and the warming climate doesn’t hurt either. Some northern species like bog birch and balsam popular are doing well too.  Not all species thrive the first time and some have had to be replanted like the sweet birches and witch hobble.

The garden's Willow Pond Trail leads to Ed's Native Plant Collection. This visit took place in early December 2011.

Following a lead from Kew Gardens in England, they planted each species with its family members.  This makes it possible for serious students to easily compare the details of closely related plants. For instance, all 12 species of native oaks are in one area, all six species of maple in another, and all five birches in still another. Other families are similarly grouped.

This area is where all the members of the sumac family can be found.

Since not all plants of the same family like the same conditions, there are areas that feature plants that like the same habitat, like sun, shade and wetlands. Many of the planting areas have mailboxes that contain a laminated map showing where each species is planted.  The other side of the map tells something about the family or the local habitat.

Ed pulls a map from one of the discovery mailboxes in the open sunny habitat.

One of the most popular sites along the the native plant trail is the Bog Garden. It provides a home for trees and shrubs of northern acid bogs and its log structure can be seen from the Landis barn as you approach from the main entrance.  Its a great chance to see these plants up close from a habitat that is often difficult to access.

From the barn, head east to the wooden bog garden. You may find Ed there to greet you!

Now is a great time to visit the garden to see the early flowers of many of the woodies, especially the overlooked wind-pollinated trees. The native plant trail is an excellent teaching tool and an invaluable resource for learning the woody plants of New York. Come visit soon!

In this area you will find the native dogwoods grouped together.

Another good time to visit will be the spring book and plant sale on May 19th, 10am to 4pm.  See their website calendar for details.


Article: Plant Taxonomists are Fading Away

September 8, 2011

The Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday about the lack of taxonomists in the world and how fewer young people are taking their place.  As an aging taxonomist and plant explorer myself I have noted this trend for years, as well as the decline of botanical studies in our schools and universities.  I have also felt the thrill of discovery many times, in the tropics (see Arthrostylidium youngianum) and in New York, and I hope we can hand that down to more young scientists who will decide to become plant taxonomists. There is still a lot to be discovered out there! – Steve Young

To read the WSJ article CLICK HERE.

Plant taxonomists are hardy souls that will go anywhere to find a new species. Connie Tedesco and Donna Vogler explore a marsh.

Important Changes in Botanical Nomenclature (Naming) Rules

August 8, 2011

This post is taken from an article in the Botanical Electronic News by Dr. A. Ceska in Victoria, British Columbia.


From: John McNeill, Rapporteur-général, Nomenclature Section, XVIII IBC, Melbourne 24–29 July 2011

1) Electronic publication

The Nomenclature Section accepted a proposal to add the words in bold to
Art. 29.1 and also accepted a number of corollary proposals, the effect of
the more important of which is described below:

“29.1. Publication is effected, under this “Code”, by distribution of printed matter (through sale, exchange or gift) to the general public or
At least to botanical institutions with libraries accessible to botanists
generally. Publication is also effected by electronic distribution of material in Portable Document Format (PDF; see also Rec. 29A.0) in an online serial publication with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) or an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).  Publication is not effected by communication of new names at a public meeting, by the placing of names in collections or gardens open to the public, by the issue of microfilm made from manuscripts, typescripts or other unpublished material, or by distribution electronically other than as described above.”
“29.2. For the purpose of this Article, ‘online’ is defined as
accessible electronically via the World Wide Web.”

In order for any nomenclatural action, e.g. the description of a new
species, the transfer of a species to a different genus, or actions
(typifications) to fix the application of a name, to be effective, it must
be “effectively published” Article 29 specifies what this means.  Hitherto
the distribution of printed matter has been necessary– now this may also be distribution of electronic material in pdf.

The effective date of the new provisions is 1 January 2012, a year earlier
than would be normal for implementation of a decision to change the Code’s requirements.

There are also provisions establishing that the content of a particular
electronic publication must not be altered after it is first issued and that
a version indicated as preliminary is not effectively published.

For published comment see:

2) Modification of the Latin requirement

Currently, in order to publish the name of a new taxon, e.g. a species, of
non-fossil plants a description and/or a diagnosis in Latin must be
provided. The Nomenclature Section modified this so that effective from 1
January 2012, the description and/or diagnosis may be in either English or Latin for valid publication of the name of all new taxa. [This is the
current requirement for names of plant fossils, published on of after 1 January 1996 – previously for fossil plants it was any language.]

Since 1935 a Latin description or diagnosis has been required for new taxa of all non-fossil plants, except algae, for which the requirement has
existed since 1958.

3) “One fungus – one name” and “one fossil – one name”

For over 30 years, the “International Code of Botanical Nomenclature” has had provision for separate names for asexual and sexual morphs of those
fungi whose life history involves such very different morphological
expressions that, until recently, were commonly impossible to link one to the other. Molecular studies have changed this situation very substantially, and more and more connections are being made, so that the asexual phase (the anamorph) and the sexual phase (the teleomorph) of the one fungal species are increasingly being identified.

As a result it has become increasingly anomalous to have separate names for the anamorph and the teleomorph phases of the one fungal species, and the concept of one name for one fungus has become increasingly supported by mycologists even with a – One Fungus – One Name symposium held earlier this year in Amsterdam, leading to an  Amsterdam Declaration seeking this change in the Code.

The Nomenclature Section agreed to delete the Article (Art. 59) with the
detailed provisions for anamorph and teleomorph names that included a
restriction that the name applied to the whole fungus (the holomorph) had to be one that was based on a teleomorphic element. In the place of the current Art. 59, provisions to minimise nomenclatural change as a result of adopting the one fungus, one name principle. This change will take effect from 1 January 2013.

The nomenclature of fossils falling under the “Code” has had similar but
even more extensive provisions for separate names for fossils that might
prove to belong to the same species. In the current “Code”, a name based on a fossil applied only to the part of the organism, the life-history stage,
or the preservational state represented by the fossil upon which the name was based. Named fossil taxa were therefore different from those of
non-fossil organisms and were termed “morphotaxa”.

This meant that even if organic connections could be made between different fossils, there was no clear provision for naming the more complete organism.

The Nomenclature Section decided to abandon the whole concept of morphotaxa, and as a result names of fossils will be exactly like other names, and if organic connections are made the earliest name applicable to the integrated fossil taxon will be the name to use, so as with fungi, the principle of “one fossil, one name” has been adopted.

4) “Registration” of names of fungi

Most of the major journals publishing mycological papers currently require, as a condition of acceptance of the paper, that any new name being published includes a “MycoBank” identifier. The Nomenclature Section agreed to go a step further and require this for valid publication of any new fungal name.

The main components of the new Article are:
“For organisms treated as fungi under this “Code” (Pre.7), from 1 January 2013 the citation of an identifier issued by a recognized repository … in
the protologue is an additional requirement for valid publication.

Further clauses explain that the minimum elements of information being
registered must be those required for valid publication under the existing provisions of the “Code” (Art. 32.1 (b–e)) and establish that the
Nomenclature Committee for Fungi has the power to appoint “one or more localized or decentralized open and accessible electronic repositories to perform this function” to remove such repositories at its discretion; and even to set aside the requirement should the repository mechanism, cease to function.

The currently appointed repository is “MycoBank” (

5) Title of the “Code”

In order to make clearer that the “Code” covers fungi as well as green
plants the Section agreed that the title should be:

“International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants”,
instead of the existing  “International Code of Botanical Nomenclature”.

Amaze Your Friends With The Meaning of Scientific Plant Names!

January 28, 2011

If you have ever sought the meaning behind the scientific name of a plant there is an easy website to use called Botanary (botanical dictionary) to look them up. It’s part of the gardening site “Dave’s Garden”. Keep it handy on your smartphone to use when guiding plant walks and someone says, “That’s a long scientific name. What does it mean?”

For the website Click Here.

Upcoming bryology workshops

January 21, 2011

There are three upcoming bryological courses and excursions this spring! They’re not being held in our region, but many bryophytes are quite cosmopolitan so it’s likely that you’d encounter species that occur in New York. Certainly the lab skills and camaraderie would be worth the trip.

Intermediate Bryology will be offered by Dr. David Wagner on the University of Oregon campus on March 21-23. The objective of this workshop will be a fairly intensive practice using the contemporary keys pertinent to the area. Most of the time will be spent in the teaching lab, with an afternoon excursion on the first day for field experience. Time will be available for participants who bring personal collections to work on them under expert supervision. Tuition is $300. Contact Dr. Wagner for more information (541-344-3327 /

The 16th Annual SO BE FREE foray will be held in the lower elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Quincy, California on March 23-26.  The area offers great sites for montane coniferous, mixed coniferous-hardwood forests; canyon oak forests; rocky outcrops; and chaparral, all in the steep North Fork of the Feather River canyon.  There will be flat trails and roadside areas to visit for easy access.  Bryophyte diversity will span from California’s spring ephemerals, bryophytes of springs, streamlets, and rivers to the great diversity found on rocky outcrops.  Beginning bryologists are welcome, and they are planning some special activities for beginners, as well as serious fieldtrips  that will be exciting for the hard-core. CLICK HERE for more info.

An Introduction to Bryophytes will be offered by Dr. Stephen Timme in the botany lab on the Pittsburg (Kansas) State University campus on April 2-3. It is designed to provide an introduction to basic characteristics and techniques for identification of some of the more common species found in the prairie, oak/hickory forests, and rock outcrops in the central U.S.  Techniques will include the proper use of the microscope, free-hand sections, terminology, and making semi-permanent mounts. The workshop will be topped off with a field trip. Contact Dr. Timme for more information (417-658-5473 /

The Plant List. A New Listing of the World’s Flora.

January 5, 2011

From website:

The Plant List is a working list of all known plant species. Version 1 aims to be comprehensive for species of Vascular plant (flowering plants, conifers, ferns and their allies) and of Bryophytes (mosses and liverworts).

Collaboration between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden enabled the creation of The Plant List by combining multiple checklist data sets held by these institutions and other collaborators.

The Plant List provides the Accepted Latin name for most species, with links to all Synonyms by which that species has been known. It also includes Unresolved names for which the contributing data sources did not contain sufficient evidence to decide whether they were Accepted or Synonyms.

For the website CLICK HERE.

For New York’s flora we recommend following the taxonomy of the New York Flora Atlas – Steve Young

Yes, Old Pressed Plants Are Really Useful

December 30, 2010

CLICK HERE to see an article about how ecologists are using herbarium specimens to study global warming.  Brooklyn Botanic Garden is featured.

Like New York, Canada Needs Taxonomists

December 1, 2010

From NatureServe US: A new report released by the Council of Canadian Academies warns of significant risks to the country’s biodiversity if there is no increased focus and investment in biodiversity science and taxonomic expertise. The report was authored by an expert panel of biodiversity scientists that included Doug Hyde, executive director of NatureServe Canada. CLICK HERE to see the report.

New York State has been without an official State Botanist for years and other taxonomists at the State Musum are set to retire in a few years. We are in a similar situation to Canada.

Great Website for the Systematics and ID of Moonworts, Botrychium subgenus Botrychium

October 16, 2010

Dr. Donald Farrar from Iowa State University has a website with detailed information and factsheets on the moonworts.  This is a valuable resource for anyone that comes across these botanical gems in the field.  For the website CLICK HERE.


The rare Botrychium minganense near Syracuse. Photo Steve Young.


In Search of Long Island Rare Plants 3 – Southern Arrowwood

August 12, 2010

From Steve Young – NY Natural Heritage Program. In New York two varieties of Viburnum dentatum are found, var. lucidum, northern arrowwood, also called Viburnum recognitum in some books, and var. dentatum, southern arrowwood.  Viburnum dentatum var. dentatum is found south of New York. Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum is found throughout the state while Viburnum dentatum var. venosum is found only in Suffolk County in New York and mostly on the very eastern end of Long Island. It is presently considered a rare plant by the New York Natural Heritage Program and ranked as S2 – threatened. In June I surveyed the area around Montauk west to Southampton on the South Fork of Long Island to see how common this shrub really is.  On Eastern Long Island it occurs in maritime shrubland with the more common var. lucidum but it can be distinguished fairly easily by leaf and reproductive characters.  It flowers and fruits about two weeks later than var. lucidum and its leaf petioles and undersides are covered with stellate hairs that are absent on var. lucidum. The photos below show the difference.

Northern and southern arrowwood beside each other. Northern on the left in bloom and southern on the right in bud in early June.

Northern arrowwood is in bloom,

When southern arrowwood is in bud.

Southern arrowwood has stellate petioles and twigs.

Northern arrowwood has glabrous twigs and petioles or with small straight hairs in the petiole groove.

Can you tell which species is which here?

Variety venosum on the top and var. lucidum on the bottom.

The brown rough bark with white lenticels looks similar on both varieties.

Because these plants flower at different times, their leaf characters are different, and they occur together instead of separated geographically, I would tend to call them different species rather than varieties.  Variety venosum has been described as a species,  Viburnum venosum, in the past and I would tend to agree with that taxonomy from what I have seen on Long Island.  I surveyed many roadsides and shrublands on the South Fork in June and southern arrowwood was present in good numbers in most of them. I am now recommending that its rank be lowered from threatened to rare and it put on the Heritage Watch List.  Even though it is more common than we thought it should still be monitored because the non-native viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) has been completely defoliating this and a few other viburnum species in parts of New York.