Della, another enjoyable read!
Isn't it funny when the need to understand the true nature of relationships between taxa clashes up against the need for continuity? If it really comes down to it though, I think that gaining a true picture of the tree of life is more enchanting to me. It's a moving world.
I am one of those who is driven to understand; to gain knowledge. I want to know how (and why
- one of the more difficult questions) things work (probably why I'm an engineer and studied science just for "fun"). For someone who likes things black and white, the world has a frustratingly high level of grey, in many different shades!
It's interesting that you phrase it like that (a moving world). Until I started studying Cymbidium Orchids, it seemed like most genera were pretty stable, i.e. Lilium
with only a few natural hybrids and no visible speciation occurring. But Cymbidiums? Nope. Natural hybrids all over the place and a number of "species" are arguably speciated natural hybrids.
This is perhaps partly due to the seemingly high intergeneric and interspecific fertility in the Orchidaceae family (which never ceases to amaze me - I haven't found any other plant family that seems to so readily hybridise across genera, sometimes even naturally so); or perhaps it has to do with the longer generational spans for Cymbidiums. Regardless of the cause, it is clear to me that Cymbidiums (and probably other Orchid genera) aren't finished speciating yet. I'm sure this presents a few interesting challenges for the taxonomists, since it's somewhat like having moving goal posts - at what point do you classify a speciated hybrid as its own species (it's bad enough that the definition of a species is a little blurry to begin with)?