Tracking Down the elusive Prasophyllum suttonii

Rudie Kuiter’s Short Paper 2 Taxonomic Status of the Mauve Leek-orchid Prasophyllum suttonii Rogers & Rees, 1912 (Orchidaceae) published in May 2017 documents how he used original source material to determine the identification of a species that was considered extinct.  Prasophyllum suttonii belongs to the Prasophyllum odoratum/diversiflorum complex and is very similar to the later named Prasophyllum alpestre. It was considered to be extinct but Rudie’s view was not that it was extinct but that it had been “lost in taxonomy, and its status need to be restored”. His article documents how he used original material to help determine identification of the species he had photographed.

In his summary Rudie has some good advice about how to effectively use the material available –

  • Use original descriptions and illustrations
    • Original descriptions are preferred over type specimens
    • later descriptions may be based upon second hand information which may or may not be accurate.
  • Drawings have some value but depend
    • upon the skill of the artist to show the crucial details
    • upon whether they were drawings from fresh or preserved specimens
  • A good photograph will be better than a drawing
  • Type material is useful but may deteriorate over time

Images from Rudie Kuiter's article on Prasophyllum suttonii

 

Click here to read the complete article

 

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2017 August Winning Picture

The following article  appeared in the Native Orchid Society of South Australia Journal September 2017 Volume 41 Number 8. It is a longer and expanded version of the article as  George Bentham was one of most influential botanists of the 19th century making it difficult to summarize his life. Even this article barely scratches the surface of this most interesting man.

The theme for the August competition was Striped or Blotched orchids.

1708 JF Thelymitra benthamiana cr

Blotches or stripes, which one? An interesting collection was entered. Representing the stripes were John Fennell’s Dipodium pardalinum, Shane Grave’s Cyrtostylis robusta labellum, Helen Lawrence’s Thelymitra cyanea, Robert Lawrence’s Diplodium dolichochilum and Lorraine Badger’s T. campanulata. There were less blotches; Ricky Egel’s Diuris pardina and John Fennell’s T. benthamiana.

T. benthamiana (Leopard Sun Orchid) is a popular orchid to photograph and it is not surprising that it is again (see April 2016) a winner in our competition. It was named after the Englishman George Bentham (1800 – 1884) one of the foremost and influential systemic botanists of the 19th century. At about the age of 16 or 17 years he was introduced to botany, and despite training as a lawyer, he devoted his life to the study of botany.

Though never visiting Australia, he produced the world’s first completed continental flora, Flora Australiensis, a seven volume work produced over 15 years (1863 – 1878). As monumental as this was, at the same time he was working on his greatest work, co-authored with Joseph Dalton Hooker, Genera Plantarum (1862 – 1883) in which is introduced the Bentham & Hooker system of plant classification. This system is still in use by many herbaria around the world. It involved the study of actual plant specimens, a practice which Bentham used himself. For instance, in the production Flora Australiensis, he would examine, critique and describe over a 1,000 species each year.

This practice harkens back to his early days when in his Flora of the French Pyrenees (1826) he adopted the practice of citing nothing second-hand. He never deviated from this. It did help that he was able to read in fourteen modern European languages plus having a good command of Latin, the language used for many botanical writings. This enabled him to access original material which he did by visiting every European herbarium when preparing for his first major work Labiatarum Genera et Species (1832 – 1836).

A shy and unassuming man, Bentham had the respect of the botanical world as was reflected in the various awards he received. Described as a genius, [a man of] indefatigable industry, the premier systematic botanist, he considered himself an amateur botanist, never a professional, even though he donated his extensive collection of more than 1,000 specimens to Kew Gardens in 1854 where he worked full time until his death in 1884. Bentham lived in, and contributed to, the transitional period from the dominance of the gentleman botanist to the government being responsible for collections of national and scientific significance.

He was responsible for introducing into orchid taxonomy (1881) a new classification recognising Subtribes, which precedes Genus in the classification system; introduced the word ‘orchidologist’ to the world in his Notes on Orchideae, 1881. Although there is only one Australian orchid named after Bentham, he has a whole genus of 29 species named after him: Benthamia which is endemic to Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion. Worldwide, Bentham was directly involved in naming over 200 orchid taxa.

Thanks to Greg Steenbeeke for critiquing this article.

Reference

N. T. Burbidge, ‘Bentham, George (1800–1884)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bentham-george-2979/text4345 , published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 29 August 2017.

George Bentham Retrieved August 31, 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bentham

The Taxonomy of the Orchidaceae Retrieved 31 August 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomy_of_the_Orchidaceae

Bentham, George (DNB00). (2012, December 29). In Wikisource. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Bentham,_George_(DNB00)&oldid=4211195

Bentham and Hooker system of Classification. Accessed August 31, 2017 from http://vle.du.ac.in/mod/book/print.php?id=13270&chapterid=29150

Notes on Orchidaea (Journal of the Linnean Society)

English Oxford Living Dictionary. Accessed 31 August, 2017 from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/orchidologist

 

2017 July Winning Picture

July Winning Photograph

Corybas demenicus

July is Helmet Orchid Season; and the theme for the July Picture Competition.

In Australia, the genus Corybas in the broad sense (sensu lato) has four segregate genera; three on the Australian mainland (Corybas, Corysanthes & Anzybas) and one (Nematoceras) on Macquarie Island. All three mainland segregate genera were represented this month. Robert Lawrence’s, Anzybas unguiculatus; Margaret Lee, Corybas aconitiflorus with Jane Higgs, Lorraine Badger and John Fennell all entering Corysanthes diemenica. Lorraine also entered Corysanthes despectans; and John an image of Corysanthes incurva. The clear winner was Jane Higgs’ Corysanthes diemenica (synonym Corybas diemenicus).

The flower of Corybas sensu lato is characterised by a large dominant dorsal sepal and an equally dominant labellum. The other features associated with an orchid are not so obvious. The column is short and not visible. Even the ovary is barely visible whilst the other petals and sepals are but short thin filaments near the ovary. The base of the labellum wraps around to form a tube which hides the column; and the upper portion of the labellum folds back on itself and flares out. With this structure, two new features are introduced, the boss in the centre of the labellum and the auricles, two earlike openings formed from folding at the base of the labellum. Two growth features that are different from many other orchids are that the bud and leaf grow concurrently and once pollination has occurred the stem elongates so that the ovary can be raised up to 20 to 30 cms, thus allowing for seed dispersal.

Jane’s picture clearly shows these features as in the labelled image below.

Corybas demenicus

Thank you to Greg Steenbeeke for reviewing this article.

Reference

Backhouse, G, et al (2016) Bush Gems: A Guide to the Wild Orchids of Victoria Electronic version

Bates, R. J., ed. (2011). South Australian Native Orchids. Electronic version, 2011. NOSSA

Jones, D. L., A Complete Guide to Native Orchids of Australia Including the Island Territories. Reed New Holland

Jones, D. L.; Hopely, T; Duffy, S. M.; Richards, K. J.; Clements, M. A and Zhang X, Australian Orchid Genera an information and identification system. Electronic version, 2006, CSIRO

Rules of entry:

The subject matter must have something to do with Australian orchids.  Any format is acceptable including Photo shopped images, artwork, etc

Orchids in Medicine?

Question: Are orchids used in medicine?

Answer: Worldwide, some orchids are used medicinally but compared with other families, despite their numerical dominance in the plant world, orchids only contribute a small number of species to medicine.

Orchidaceae is the second** largest Family in the world after Asteraceae which has about 32,280* species whilst the orchids consists of about 27,753 species. In the big picture, their numbers are similar but only 2.32% (619) of all orchids species can be considered medicinal as opposed to 7.17% (2,314) of Asteraceae.

It is worth noting, that only 28,187 (6.48%) of the possible 434,910 species worldwide are recorded as being used medicinally. But of all of the world’s families it is the small Family of Moraceae (Mulberry, Figs & Mallow) that contributes the most. Of its 1,229 species 22.54% are medicinally useful.

 

 Total number species

 

 Percent of species used medicinally

 

 Number of Species used medicinally

 
World wide

434,910

 

6.48%

 

28,187

 
             
Asteraceae

32,280

 

7.17%

 

2,314

 
Orchidaceae

27,753

 

2.23%

 

619

 
Moraceae

1,229

 

22.54%

 

277

Concerning Australian orchids only a handful are known to have been used medicinally such as Cymbidium for dysentery, Dendrobium teretifolium bruised leaves for pain relief and different parts of  Dendrobium discolor as a poultice and for ringworm.

Cym caniculatum drawing

Notes:

**Many sources will state that the Orchid Family is the largest Family worldwide but for the purpose of this article, the information used is from 2017 State of the World’s Plants. Species numbers tend to be a in state of flux as botanists are discovering new and reassessing data.

*All figures in this article are based upon figures found in the 2017 State of the World’s Plants report.

Reference:

https://stateoftheworldsplants.com/ accessed 9 June 2017

https://academic.oup.com/qjmed/article/98/9/625/1547881/The-uses-and-misuses-of-orchids-in-medicine accessed 9 June 2017

 

The Grace and Charm of Fitzgerald’s Orchids

Orchids have fascinated people over the generations.  Robert Fitzgerald was one of them.  He had a lasting influence upon Australian orchids.  This extract from the Brisbane Courier Saturday 27 September 1930 Page 20 gives a brief biography of him.  The author of the article is Estelle Thomson.

 

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Original article from the Brisbane Courier, Saturday 27 September 1930

Great Australian Botanists

III. – R. D. FITZGERALD

In 1830 Robert Desmond Fitzgerald was born at Tralee, in Ireland.  When he was a young man of about 26 he came to Sydney and entered the surveyor-General’s office as a draughtsman; he became Deputy Surveyor-General, and held that post till he retired in 1887 to devote the rest of his life to his great work, the study of Australian orchids.  He travelled all over the Commonwealth and made innumerable drawings and paintings of orchids.  He drew always from the living plant (rather an exception in his day when the dried specimen was often used, even when fresh plants were available), and his drawings have grace and charm and also an unmistakable individual style.

His work was published in several huge folio volumes, called “Australian Orchids,” and in these he figures and describes over 200 species.  As well as making the original drawing in colour, he made the lithographic plates for a number of the reproductions.

He kept no dried specimens, and so left no herbarium on his death (at Hunter’s Hill, Sydney, in 1892), and this is to be regretted, as he described and named a number of new species, and the type (the original specimen) not being available it is sometimes difficult to determine whether other specimens are true to this type, or variations, or actually different species.

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

An 1888 reprint of one of his many prints. The species featured are Caleana major (Flying Duck Orchid) and Paracaleana minor (Little Duck Orchid)

 

Australian Orchids & the Doctors they Commemorate Part 11 of 20

Ferdinand Von Mueller (1825 – 1896)

A qualified pharmacist in Rostock (Germany) who emigrated to Australia in 1847 and wrote extensively on the medicinal properties of plants; he was a founder of Australian botany and published over 800 articles on botany.

Orchid species:

Habenaria ferdinandi image and location

Taeniophyllum muelleri

Australian Orchids and the Doctors they Commemorate Part 7 of 20

Robert Brown (1773 -1858)

A Scottish-born and Edinburgh-trained surgeon, doctor-soldier, and the father of Australian botany; he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1839, then the world’s highest accolade in science.

Orchid species: Elythranthera brunonis (= Glossodia brunonis)

Microtis brownii

Prasophyllum brownii