Archive for the ‘Taxonomy’ category

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.

Time to Refresh Your Memory on Aster and Goldenrod Scientific Names

July 31, 2010

Many scientific name changes have been made in the Aster Family lately and there are a number of places you can go to refresh your memory on the changes to asters and goldenrods. Here are some websites where you can read up on them:

A list of name changes in Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide can be found on the sidebar of this blog.

This is a website of Asters and Goldenrods of New England:

Here is a list of aster synonyms from Humboldt University: Synonyms.doc

This is a website describing John Semple’s taxonomy of the asters and goldenrods:

This is the aster family treatment in the flora of North America:

Time to go in the field and test your memory!

Showy aster, Eurybia spectabilis, on Long Island. Photo Steve Young

Scientific Name Changes in the New Rare Plant Status List

July 7, 2010

The 2010 Rare Plant Status Lists contain some scientific name changes that are listed here, old name first then new name.  To see further explanations of why they were changed you can type the new name into the NY Flora Atlas. Some of the species are in Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide and should be changed there too.

Aristolochia serpentaria – Endodeca serpentaria (In Newcomb’s)

Boechera shortii – Boechera dentata

Empetrum eamsii ssp. atropurpureum  – Empetrum atropurpureum

Empetrum nigrum ssp. hermaphroditum – Empetrum nigrum

Erechtites hieraciifolia – Erechtites hieraciifolius (In Newcomb’s)

Eriophorum angustifolium ssp. scabriusculum  – Eriophorum angustifolium ssp. angustifolium

Eupatorium hyssopifolium var. laciniatum – Eupatorium torreyanum

Eupatorium rotundifolium var. ovatum – Eupatorium pubescens

Helianthemum dumosum – Crocanthemum dumosum

Helianthemum propinquum  – Crocanthemum propinquum

Lespedeza violacea – Lespedeza frutescens (In Newcomb’s)

Loiseleuria procumbens – Kalmia procumbens (In Newcomb’s)

Neobeckia aquatica – Rorippa aquatica

Zigadenus elegans ssp. glaucus – Anticlea elegans ssp. glaucus

Zigadenus leimanthoides – Stenanthium leimanthoides

NY Times Article on Taxonomy and the Naming of Organisms

August 13, 2009

Click here to see an interesting article on taxonomy by CAROL KAESUK YOON.

I like the last paragraph, copied below, which shows the value of the profession.

Just find an organism, any organism, small, large, gaudy, subtle — anywhere, and they are everywhere — and get a sense of it, its shape, color, size, feel, smell, sound. Give a nod to Professor Franclemont and meditate, luxuriate in its beetle-ness, its daffodility. Then find a name for it. Learn science’s name, one of countless folk names, or make up your own. To do so is to change everything, including yourself. Because once you start noticing organisms, once you have a name for particular beasts, birds and flowers, you can’t help seeing life and the order in it, just where it has always been, all around you.

Try and Collect Some Dodders This Summer

July 18, 2009

Dodders of the genus Cuscuta are those strange looking parasitic plants that grow like orange spaghetti over herbaceus vegetation and low shrubs. They are hard to identify because their flowers and fruits are so small that it takes a good hand lens or microscope to discriminate the tiny characters needed for species separation. Soon the new volume of the Flora of North America will be out that treats the genus Cuscuta and we would like to have more recent specimens from around New York to run through the keys. We are especially interested in the difference between Cuscuta obtusiflora var. glandulosa and Cuscuta gronovii var. latiflora in southeastern New York and Long Island. They have similar flowers but their fruits are different. Cuscuta obtusiflora has fruits that are wider than high with a depressed top whereas Cuscuta gronovii has a fruit that is higher than wide with a beak on the top. But just looking at the flowers we think that many specimens of gronovii var. latiflora have been identified as Cuscuta obtusiflora. Also, Cuscuta macrocarpa was once collected along the Mohawk River in the early 1990s near Schenectady and we would like to know if this species is more common than we think. Specimens are best collected with both flowers and fruits on the same plant. Rob Naczi at the New York Botanical Garden is especially interested in receiving specimens as he updates the Cuscuta key for the Northeast in the new Gleason and Cronquist manual. So if you’re out this summer in a meadow or a marsh and you see the distinctive orange spaghetti masses, please grab some and send them on to Rob at:

Dr. Rob Naczi
New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458-5126

Cuscuta obtusiflora var. glandulosa at Jones Beach LI

Cuscuta obtusiflora var. glandulosa at Jones Beach LI