Perennials forum: Polyanthus Primrose (Primula elatior subsp. elatior) in the Database.

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Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 9, 2018 7:56 PM CST
I tried to add a comment to a thread initiated by plantrob on May I, 2015, lost it, so am now repeating some of the content here.

Like plantrob, I'm confused by the entry "Polyanthus Primrose (Primula elatior subsp. elatior)" in the Primula Database.

Responding to some relevant comments: Re taxonomy (classification) and nomenclature (naming); In Biology, academic opinions differ in both of these areas, so there is no one correct taxonomy and even in the application of the rules of nomenclature, in particular cases, there may be disagreement there as well.

Re "Polyanthus Primrose"; this term seems a bit confusing since Polyanthus seems to be taken as referring to complex hybrids between several different species, especially Primula vulgaris (primroses) and P. veris (cowslips), likely with contributions from P. elatior (oxlips) and perhaps other Primula species. Consequently, I'd prefer Polyanthus Primula or Polyanthus-type Primula.

I'm also very confused by the association of Polyanthus-type Primrose with the subspecies P. elatior subsp. elatior. The latter subspecies is widely spread in continental Europe but seems not to be recognized in the UK. Whatever the case, the distribution of the species, P. elatior, is restricted in the UK.

The Primula Database associates P. eliator subsp. elatior and the Supernova Series of Primula. I'm guessing this Series is continental European in origin; seeds have been available from distributors in the Netherlands and in Germany. I'm assuming, from the name, that the Supernova strains are not hybrids involving several different species but have been developed from the continental native subspecies P. elatior subsp elatior itself.

On the other hand, there's a long history of development of the hybrid Polyanthus-type Primulas in the UK, going back to the 16th and 17th century. It seems to be clear that whatever you call them, these hybrids have the parentage of at least two different species; P. vulgaris (primroses) and P. veris (cowslips), likely with contributions from P. eliator (oxlips) and maybe other species as well.

I'm wondering what the reason is for associating the manifestly hybrid Polyanthus-type with a single subspecies in the Plants Database.
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Mar 18, 2018 9:36 AM CST
Maybe one of our more botanically inclined members could answer ? @Zuzu
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 18, 2018 9:50 AM CST
What I took to be relevant reading:

http://archive.bsbi.org.uk/Wat...
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Peonies Lilies Enjoys or suffers cold winters Winter Sowing
Bulbs Region: Canadian Garden Ideas: Master Level Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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CarolineScott
Mar 18, 2018 10:01 AM CST
That source is from 1993 so maybe some taxonomists maybe changed their minds. Rolling my eyes. Rolling my eyes. Rolling my eyes.
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 18, 2018 10:41 AM CST
This matter is about applying the Nomenclature Principle of Priority (viz. re which is the correct name); it's not simply a matter of judging which taxonomic classification is most desirable.

It's a clear example where the date of publication is just one factor that should be taken into consideration.



Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses Clematis Irises
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zuzu
Mar 18, 2018 11:08 AM CST

Plants Admin

Charlie, you and I discussed this in a lengthy tree-mail earlier this month. I explained that we use the Catalogue of Life as our taxonomic source, and it lists P. polyantha as a synonym. Among other explanations, I offered this one:

"I think part of the problem might be the indiscriminate use of "Polyanthus-type" to describe primulas that may never have qualified as P. polyantha. I've seen that description applied to cultivars of P. forestii and P. obconica, as well as P. elatior, P. veris, and the former P. vulgaris."
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 18, 2018 3:41 PM CST
I appreciate the explanation, but more generally still find it a stretch to accept the classification and nomenclature of the Primula in the Catalogue of Life.

For instance, I take the fact that the Catalogue of Life lists both Primula veris (cowslip) and P. vulgaris (primrose) as synonyms of P. acaulis subsp. acaulis as suspicious. OK, the Primula Database doesn't actually accept what the Catalogue of Life says with regard to the first (retaining P. veris), but it does accept the latter. The former assignment may simply be a result of the the data and methodology used in assembling a high level classification, but I'm assuming that the latter is a simpler matter; namely, that of the correct application of the rules of nomenclature (e.g. the reference cited above).

I understand something of what the Catalogue of Life is trying to achieve and some of it's methodology, but still feel that there are more useful and reliable classifications of the Genus Primula.

Zuzu, I do accept that the NGA's whole Plant Database has to concern itself with more than the Genus Primula! And I am sympathetic to those charged with the challenge of constructing such a Database.



[Last edited by SunnyBorders - Mar 18, 2018 3:46 PM (+)]
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Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses Clematis Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages Forum moderator Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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zuzu
Mar 18, 2018 3:55 PM CST

Plants Admin

We do "accept what the Catalogue of Life says" in both cases. The reason that our database does not list P. veris as a synonym for P. acaulis subsp. acaulis is that the Catalogue of Life has two separate entries for P. veris, one calling it an accepted name. This is an indication of a disagreement between botanists. In these cases, we choose to recognize the CoL entry defining the name as accepted, believing that it's preferable to leave an entry as is rather than deleting the entry and adding the name to another entry as a synonym, but we will keep an eye on this species and will make any necessary changes when the disagreement has been settled. We did not have to make this choice with P. polyantha because there is only one CoL entry for that name, and that entry defines it as a synonym.
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 18, 2018 4:12 PM CST
So the Catalogue of Life (currently (?)) both accepts and doesn't accept Primula veris as a valid taxon?
Name: Zuzu
Northern California (Zone 9a)
Charter ATP Member Region: California Cat Lover Roses Clematis Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Sages Forum moderator Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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zuzu
Mar 18, 2018 4:24 PM CST

Plants Admin

Yes. That happens occasionally when a published study challenges an earlier consensus. This is an ongoing process, and as I said, we will make the appropriate changes if and when they are warranted.
Name: Charlie
Aurora, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Maintenance of Perennial Beds.
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SunnyBorders
Mar 18, 2018 4:39 PM CST
Sounds good!?
[Last edited by SunnyBorders - Mar 19, 2018 6:15 AM (+)]
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