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Tue May 25 09:05:03 CEST 1999

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From: guy gusman <ggusman at ULB.AC.BE>
Subject: Arisaema bockii/engleri
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Ray, Wilbert=8A

I hesitated an instant before sending this comment but I have been
personally addressed by your reply, Wilbert, and, hence must face, once
more, this never-dying Hydra: the mythical interpretation of Engler's A.

-But first, Wilbert, it is true that when you sent me a photo of a green
spathed A sp#24, I suspected it was A. amurense. That's what I told you
privately, it was not intended to become a public statement. I also told
you, if I remember well, that my plants (19/03/99) were still dormant. Fo=r
now all of them are in flower and, of course, it is evident that they do
not fit A. amurense but match A. engleri. From now on, thanks to Chen Yi,
we know that A. engleri, like many arisaemas, may show an inflorescence
whose colour varies from green to dark purple. Well, once more, this prov=es
that one cannot identify plants from one specimen. It is true, Wilbert,
that your plant looked like one of my Korean specimens of A. amurense. Bu=t,
one doesn't make statistics with two samples.

- Now, let's turn to A. bockii, for the last time, I hope.

In 1890, Engler writes the description of A. bockii in "Botanische
Jahrbucher" vol. 29, p. 235.
Later, in 1920, he publishes Das Pflanzereich in which all descriptions a=re
put together. But, in this work, he also provides a synthesis on ARACEAE
and a taxonomic revision of the genus Arisaema.

Going back to A. bockii, things are different in the two publications:
- on one hand, in Bot. Jahr., Engler speaks of <appendice breviore brevit=er
stipitato elongato-claviformi (?).> = <appendix shortly stipitate elo=ngate
and clavate (?)>. The question mark is in the text! He also writes <fl.
Sept.> = <in flower in September>.
- on the other hand, in Pflanzr., Engler includes A. bockii in ATTENUATA,=a
section he defines as <Spadicis appendix HAUD distincte stipitata e basi
sursum attenuata, interdum basi leviter constricta> = < Spadix append=age
NEVER conspicuously stipitate becoming thinner from the base to the apex,
sometimes slightly constricted at the base>. (I added the capitals).
Why this difference? A plant with a shortly stipitate appendage is now
included in a section whose species have spadix appendages that are never
stipitate, just after A. yunnanense and before A. saxatile!
Simultaneously, Engler - yes, the same author - modifies the description:
he writes <spatha ignota> = <spathe unknown> (it was already written =in th=
comment in German) and <appendix circ. 2 cm longa> = <appendage about=2 cm
long>. Last modification: the plants were <abgebluht im September>!
Now we understand. In his diagnosis, Engler was incorrect in saying that
the plant was in flower in September, it was in fruit! That's why the
inflorescence was unknown to him and still remains unknown to us.
But that is not the end of the story, Engler now asks J. Pohl to make
drawings to illustrate Das Pflanzenreich. The picture is extremely clear
one sees a plant in fruit with a withered SESSILE appendage. Is it a new
mistake? Well let's go on. As everybody knows, the truth is to be found i=n
the herbarium sheets. I asked Berlin a copy of the original sheet, and, a=t
once, I got it. I am happy to thank here Dr. Baessler, the Curator of the
Herbarium for his kindness. The copy looks like Pohl's drawing, it shows =a
plant with one leaf - yes 1 leaf! As said by Engler in his description
<monophyllum> = <one leafed> - and, above the fruiting inflorescence,=ther=
is a sessile appendage. Notice that Engler's voucher is mature and female
(fruiting spike) and has one leaf only, as can be seen and read. How many
leaves are there on your plants from Chen Yi? All of them, in my garden
have two.
I could not find any trace of a second voucher specimen collected by Carl
Bock and A. von Rosthorn in Berlin. As I am obstinate (well, I think I am=)
I also asked the Herbarium at Vienna as suggested by Dan Nicolson.
Unfortunately, Araceae, as a whole, have been destroyed at the end of Wor=ld
War II. There is thus little hope to find more than one authentic specime=n

Now, remember that A. engleri is member of section PEDATISECTA. One basic
character of the section is that the spadix appendage is DISTINCTLY
STIPITATE such as in A. serratum or in A. amurense.
Well I cannot believe that Engler did not notice that. It is amusing to
notice that Engler was the man who described Arisaema sazensoo (=
sikokianum for Engler) var. serrato-dentatum Engler = sazensoo var.
serratum Makino = sikokianum var. serratum (Makino) Handel-Mazzetti, =i.e.
the plant we call today A. engleri Pampanini. That means that Engler knew
both plants, A. engleri and A. bockii, and didn't merge them.

What a mess!
To close this discussion, I'd like to add one point. Being a scientific
academic man, I also live in a logical world (like you Ray) and try to us=e
words, concepts that are well defined and unambiguous.

It is obvious that Engler's description of A. bockii is made from an
incomplete specimen. Moreover there are inconsistencies between the
original text, in Bot. Jahr., and the revision in Das Pflanzenr. We also
pointed out that A. bockii was related by Engler himself to plants such a=s
A. yunnanense and NOT to plants such as A. amurense.
It is also clear that Pampanini made a correct and unambiguous descriptio=n
of A. engleri.
Everyone knows from Pampanini's paper, well illustrated by a copy of the
Herbarium sheet, what A. engleri looks like. At the opposite, there are a
lot of discussions about the correct attribution of A. bockii.
To be clear, I do not claim that A. bockii cannot be A. engleri. But I sa=y
that one does not know what A. bockii is, and, following Engler himself, =I
do not see any obvious reason to merge those species.
I'd like to make an analogy. All scientists know that is always difficult
to say that A cannot lead to B, on the contrary it is often much easier t=o
say that A leads to B. For instance, it is easy to prove that "Tobacco ma=y
harm your health", on the contrary it is very difficult to prove that
"Electromagnetic radiation (emitted by portable telephones for instance)
does not cause any damage to human brain".
I perfectly agree with you, Wilbert, that a taxonomist is free, I should
say is invited to add information to a species, provided this species is
unambiguously described and recognized. Sorry, but, for me, Botany is
science and no guessing game.

I know what I am speaking of, when dealing with A. engleri. It is not the
case with A. bockii.
Accordingly, in our logical world, the name A. bockii should be discarded.

G. Gusman

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