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Tue Mar 26 22:12:04 CET 2002

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From: "Andy Y.S. Wong" <asiatica at NNI.COM>
Subject: Re: A.serratum-A.angustatum
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In looking at groups of plants such as Asarum, Arisaema and some others,
we have to remind ourselves that the concept of "species" is not a
concept envisioned by plants, but by people. I have seen "species" such
as Arisaema serratum, whatever it is, described as "polymorphic",
literally with many forms.  What this means, practically speaking, is
that we cannot hope to recognize some "species" without seeing a very
large number of individuals over the widest possible range.  Seeing one
or a few plants is of little use.  This is a particular problem for
taxonomists who want to do their work by viewing one or a few dried

In studying Japanese Asarum I found that it took me years of observation
to recognize certain polymorphic species, and it finally became possible
when I acquired a sense of the "gestalt" of the species as a variable
whole.  This sounds like voodoo taxonomy, and it sometimes seems as much
art as science.  Nevertheless, it often does make sense in the end, as
long as we realize that we have to adapt our view of classifying plants
to the reality of how they speciate and do not become testy because they
don't always behave in convenient ways.

A problem with Arisaema "serratum" is that researchers in different
regions have grasped different parts of the camel, and no one is
stroking the whole beast.  If you agree with some Chinese that
"serratum" itself does not rise to the species level, it greatly
complicates the view of "serratum" in Japan, where there are a number of
very distinctive plants (mayebarae, kishidae, takedae etc) that are
viewed by some in Japan as varieties of "serratum'.  Thus we find
ourselves with a great many easily distinguised, distinctive plants that
are seen, in Japan at least, as varieties of something that is itself
seen as unlikely to be a species.

So, it is not unusual, when reading of different views of one
polymorphic "species", to find information that appears to be
contradictory and confusing.  There is no simple way out of the problem;
it takes a lot of time and close observation, and a non-dogmatic view of
how plants arrange themselves.

Barry R. Yinger
Pennsylvania, USA  USDA Zone mid 6

"A. L. Clement" wrote:
> > Both are described in detail in document aroid012.pdf available on th=e AEG
> > documents site. There are too many differences for me to give you a
> > "one-liner" answer. Look it up. You'll be amazed how interesting this=]
> > document is.
> > Ray
> I have searched for information, before asking if somebody know what th=e
> status is of A. angustatum . And I have read document aroid012 I have a=lso
> seen document aroid016, aroid010 and aroid048. They contain conflicting
> information so I turned to the AEG for help, but I received again
> conflicting information.
> I think that I go with G. Gusman the description of the plant and the
> pictures which I have seen of them are very similar and the information=of
> J. Murata is, so far I now, the latest.
> Arno
> >
> > At 08:45 PM 3/25/2002 +0100, you wrote:
> > >Dear all
> > >
> > >Can somebody tell me the difference between A. serratum and A.
> angustatum. I
> > >know that they are very similar, and that A. serratum has serrated l=eafs.
> > >But is this the only difference or are there other.
> > >Or is A. angustatum a syn. of A. serratum.
> > >
> > >Arno
> > >

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