Monday, June 20, 2011

C. sp. ‘location name, number, etc’ does not necessarily mean a new species!

I have not been going for any field trips recently so I decided to write some articles about some of my thoughts and insights gathered from my few years of cryptocorynes obsession. The article below is to explain what exactly C. sp' Belitong', C. sp. 'Lingga', C. sp. 'Pahang', etc stands for in case I have managed to confuse some of you with it. The title of the article is as per stated in this blog entry's title.

C. sp. ‘location name, number, etc’ does not necessarily mean a new species!

I am lucky to be living in Singapore, a small country represented by just a tiny red dot on many world maps. However, due to its geographical location (i.e. Singapore is centrally located within South East Asia), it is easy to travel to places with abundant cryptocorynes habitats such as Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sarawak, etc from Singapore.

Secondly I am lucky to have met my explorer friend for without him, I would not have the chance to visit so many different habitats of various species of cryptocorynes found by him to take amateur photographic records of the various habitat conditions and cryptocoryne specimens found.

One of the major problems faced during my visits to these cryptocoryne habitats is that many a times I will not be able to locate a blooming specimen with a fully open spathe to aid in the correct identification of the species (i.e. there are some locations which my explorer friend or I have visited more than 10 times but we are still not able to locate any blooming specimen). It is generally very difficult to identify which known species a specimen found belongs to by just looking at the appearance of the leaves which can vary greatly even for specimens found within the same location (with the exception of maybe C. longicauda, C. thewaitesii, etc which leaves have rather distinctive characteristics). See below for one such example of the varied leaves of specimens located at one same habitat.

I have also learnt and realised that there is always a bias perception, which is: if there is a habitat which previously had certain species of cryptocorynes recorded to be found there, any specimens found subsequently at this location will be deemed to belong to the same species previously recorded (especially if no blooming specimens was found). While this is generally true, there had been some occasions where exceptions were encountered because eventually 2 or more different species of cryptocorynes were found dwelling within the same forest / swamp / river system. See below for one example of 2 different species of cryptocoryne found within the same swamp forest. Another example is C. minima and C. elliptical at Pondok Tanjung reserve forest.

Even if a blooming specimen was found, from the many photographs found on-line, you will probably agree that there are so many variations in the appearance of the spathe in terms of the shape, size and colour of the limbs / male and female flowers / etc, making it sometimes difficult to confirm which known species the blooming specimen should belongs to. See below for examples of some of such specimens in my opinion.
With all the problems listed above, instead of making wild guesses (i.e. based on just the appearance of the leaves or on the location of the habitat), my personal preference (probably some may agree while others may not agree) is generally to use C. sp. ‘area name, number representing the different locations within the same area’ to name:
  1. specimens found without a blooming specimen, even if the specimens were found at locations with previous records, or
  2. specimens found with a blooming specimen which spathe has sufficient variations from the current know species such that one cannot confidently confirm the accurate identification of species
What is important to me is to have good photographic records of as much details as possible. I prefer to then leave it to the viewers and the experts to make their own judgement and inference on which known species should such specimens belong to.

Hopefully spathes can be located soon (i.e. either through repeated visits to the habitats or through cultivation) for those specimens currently without any blooming specimens found. And hopefully, a handful of such specimens may eventually be recognized by the experts in the future to be something new (i.e. new species, new natural hybrid, new sub-species, new location record, etc). Until then, C. sp. ‘location name, number, etc’ does not necessarily mean a new species!


Hermes said...

Great post. My main interest are the Alimataceae and exactly the same problem. I think water plants are particularly prone in variabilty because of the extreme environments they live in.

Anonymous said...

I would like to contact you in regards to your blog but don't see any contact info for you. Please email me thank you

illumbomb said...

Hi, I am contactable at