Thursday, November 26, 2009

The first mention of Anubias in scientific literature

Attention! This posting - exept of Schott's notice - is a fiction and should be accepted ONLY as author's subjective vision of reality.

In 1857 Henry Shott, the court gardener and botanist of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, received a parcel from Sweden. The sender was Elias Magnus Fries, the director of the museum and university’s botanic garden in Uppsala. In a wooden box among other various plants and their descriptions was a little wilted plant, which had been traveled several thousands kilometers to Vienna. There was a list of the plants in the covering note, but in front of this specimen was a dash. Fries commented that this plant was a part of Adam Afzelius’ collection and Uppsala University bought this collection from Afzelius’ relatives after his death. The aged Fries wasn’t interested in African “inheritance” of Afzelius, mushrooms were always his scientific ardour. As he knew that the Austrian liked the flora of the Dark Continent, he sent several plants to him. In his turn H. Shott didn’t think a lot and gave the novice of the Aracea family an imposing name – “Anubias”, in honor of the ancient Egyptian God of the dead, Anubis. On 27 November 1757 Shott sent a short note “Essays about the Arum family”- (in German “Aroideen-Skizzen”) about the new genus to the “Wiener Botanisches Wochenblatt”. So the first mention about the most popular Aquarian plant had appeared in scientific literature. Here is the whole article.

Essays about the Arum family

Henry Shott

Only one plant should deserve our special attention among the plant which Afzelius had collected in Sierra Leone. It’s very difficult to ascertain, whether this plant grows on the ground or trees, because the specimen is deficient. But only leaf and its rib, wrapped veil of the cop show us that it is a new genus and the further study of the flower proves that. We think that we haven’t any right to conceal from the scientific community this interesting specimen from the less known corner of the Earth and that’s why we sent a description of this plant’s peculiarities with the most visible specific traits, for that we thank the honorable Elias Fries.

A n u b i a s. Spatha cylindrice-voluta, lamina hiante. Spadix spatham excedens, ubique organis tectus, inferne ovaries, medio synondrodiis, reliqua parte synandriis apicem (inflorescentiae) versus imperfectis obsitus. Ovaria bilocularia, loculamentis multiovulatis, ovulis e medio axeos exertis, longule-funiculatis, hemianatropis, micropyle tholispectante. Stylus brevissimus. Stigmaconvexo-diseoideum, Synandria truncata, loculis quam connective brevioribus. Synandrodia synandriis similia.

Anubias Afzelii. Peliolus 5--6 pollicaris, lenuis, ultra medium vaginatus, apice in geniculum longulum transiens. Lamina fol. elongato-lanceolata, peliolo multo-longior, inferne cuneala, el ima basi abrupte cure geniculo juncta, apice longe-acuminala, venis arcualo-patentibus, creberrimis, approximatis, hinc inde confluenlibus, pseudoneuris in ipso margine 2-bus, venulis tran

sversis, copiosissimis, approximatissimis, tenuissimis in strucla. Pedunculus 9-10 pollices lonqus

, tenuis. Spatha bipollicaris, apice repentiaocontracta, apiculata. Spadix tenuis, spatham 6ta parte superans breviter-stipitalus. Habit. in Sierra-Leone (Afzelius).

Schönbrunn, 27 November 1857

The author of this note: Alexander Grigorov.

The author used infos from the next Web page.

Translated from Russian by Julia Niklyaeva and Alexander Grigorov

Photos: Dmitry Loginov

© Alexander Grigorov

© Dmitry Loginov

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anubias gilletii – the pearl of the home greenhouse

In my opinion Anubias gilletii is one of the most beautiful representatives of its genus. The laminae of this plant have a tribolate structure and are grown up horizontally to the surface on the long (up to 60 cm), graceful petioles. The rhizome is up to 1 cm in a cross section. The petioles are situated on it very closely to each other and are grown up to the light source. This picture looks like a beautiful bunch of cut flowers in vase. Small prickles on the petioles are looked like roses’ prickles. More than that Anubias gilletii has riotous flowering practically during the whole year. On my plant I could observe up to 7 inflorescences at the same time. Like most of the large anubias, the length of the flower stock is substantially smaller as the length of the petioles, so the flower ripens under the canapy.

If we looked at Anubias gilletii with the eye of a taxonomist here is also everything quite, calm and beautiful. Perhaps it’s a unique case among large Anubias species , which doesn’t give rise to doubt in a generic denomination. We can find only one species of this plant on the post-Soviet territory, this species I described above. Practically there is no information about this anubias in Internet. There are photos from the botanic garden in Lyons (France), but the leaf form of the depicted Anubias gilletii is quite differ from ours. So due to riotous flowering we could get to know the structure of the inflorescence in detail. Particularly the photos which were made by S. Gerasimov show that thekas are situated on synandria’ edges, which consist of 3-5 adnate stamens. The same structure of the inflorescence’s male part is described in W. Crusio’s revision. But in our case the quantity of the female flowers is more – up to 60 (in revision 20-30). More than that W. Crusio described that his specimens of Anubias gilletii had stolons. But we haven’t yet seen such laterals of this plant and of other Anubias species too. Though, I think that such differences are insignificant, which we can attribute to the lack of the information, concerning this West African plant.

There are not so many negative qualities of Anubias gilletii. For example, the growth in a submersed condition isn’t so good . But we can see some cases, when this plant has been cultivated in aquarium during a year. Besides in spite of the fact, that Anubias gilletii has riotous and regular flowering at home greenhouse, it’s very difficult to achieve the aging of pollen. Due to the high air humidity (about 98%), which is arisen in small aquaria or paludaria; there is the fast rotting and decomposition of the male part cop’s tissue.

The author of this note: Dmitry Loginov.

The author used information from the next Web page

Translated from Russian by Julia Niklyaeva and Alexander Grigorov

Photos: Sergey Gerasimov, Dmitry Loginov and Valentina Romanova.

© Dmitry Loginov
© Alexander Grigorov

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wim Crusio: "The only reason why I chose to distinguish 5 varieties in A. barteri was purely pragmatic" (an "Amazonas"-Interview) – Part II

“Amazonas”: Recently we have discussed a morphological feature, that is not presented in your revision. In this сonnection we would like to ask one more question: One of the distinguishing morphological features of Lagenandra genus is the involute vernation, in which both margins on opposing sides of the leaf are rolled up. All Anubia have the convolute vernation, it means the leaf is rolled from one margin. But leaves of different species are rolled up in different ways (clockwise or counterclockwise). What determines the direction of leaves' rolling up? Is this feature stable within this species?

Wim Crusio: Well, I have to admit that I never looked at this! I don't know whether this feature is stable within species. In general, very few plant species (and even rather few animal species) are lateralized, so I would not be surprised if this feature would be determined more or less randomly for each individual clone. In culture, species may appear to be less variable than they are in reality, because we may see many different plants, but they probably belong to only a few clones.

“Amazonas”: What do you think is the place of the plant under the trade name "Anubias coffeefolia" in the taxonomy of Anubias? Is it a new species or an artificially grown hybrid?

Wim Crusio: I have never seen the plant alive, only on photos. I think it is one of the many variants of A. barteri. I have seen many collections of this species from the wild and it is extremely polymorphic.

“Amazonas”: Among all species of Anubia only Anubias barteri var. nana is successfully grown being fully submersed. This feature is passed on to all interspecific hybrids of this Anubias. In this сonnection there are some suppositions about the existence of a certain gene responsible for this feature (an ability to grow being submerged into the water for a long time). What do you think about it?

Wim Crusio: As a geneticist, I strongly doubt that one single gene could be responsible for such a complex character as being able to live submerged. As far as I know, A. heterophylla has been kept submerged with success, too, as is the case with most (or even all) varieties of A. barteri.

“Amazonas”: To what species would you refer this Anubias (On the picture you can see a mature Anubias more than 2 years of age)? What do you think is the reason for Anubia leafstocks sometimes having unusual (reddish-brown or red) colouring?

Wim Crusio: This looks like either A. barteri var. angustifolia or a very narrow-leafed form of A. afzelii. You will have to compare the size of the inflorescence with the dimensions given in my revision. It is almost certainly the first one, though.

“Amazonas”: Anubia-fanciers noticed that the spatha of Anubias barteri subspecies can have a slightly lowered or volute end. your revision says that you cultivated many of Anubias genus. Have you faced such differences? What might it depend on? On conditions of plants growing? Or on the physiology of a particular plant?

A: Аnubias barteri var. caladiifolia with a slightly lowered end of the spatha, the first day of blooming. B: Anubias barteri var. nana: this is not the first day of blooming, but one can see that the spatha is not full volute.

Wim Crusio: To find out what causes these differences, one would need to breed these plants under different conditions and perhaps also produce crosses between them.

“Amazonas”: Some of us (Anubia-fanciers from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova) keep Anubias sp. Gabon. Do you know this plant?

The pictures of it are here

Wim Crusio: This is a form of A. barteri. Probably var. barteri.

“Amazonas”: Taxonomy is a relative science. As far as I know, modern taxonomists try to avoid such notions as "variety" and "subspecies", using only the notion "species". What do you think about it, taking into consideration the Anubias barteri case?

Wim Crusio:I agree with that completely. As I wrote in my revision, the borders that I drew between the different varieties are rather arbitrary. Somebody else would perhaps have drawn them differently or distinguished more (or fewer) varieties. It's a bit like distinguishing between tall and short people, they are extremes of the normal distribution, but within a given population, you can find the whole range from short to tall.

“Amazonas”: All the pistils of Anubias gracilis we have seen bevor were reddish-pink. Can the color be the key to the specification of the genus?

Wim Crusio: Perhaps. But A. gracilis appears to be very rare and it is very well possible that all plants in cultivation stem from the same clone. I have seen reddish-pink pistils also in A. hastifolia, I think. At this point, I actually have big problems drawing the border between barteri and gracilis...

“Amazonas”: What question was the most interesting or maybe difficult for you?

Wim Crusio: The most difficult question was the one about whether I still keep aquaria, because it made me feel nostalgic and I really would like to have some free time again to devote to this wonderful hobby!

Interview: Alexander Grigorov.

Photo: Sergey Gerasimov, Dmitry Loginov and Konstantin Ilyin.

© Alexander Grigorov

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wim Crusio: "The only reason why I chose to distinguish 5 varieties in A. barteri was purely pragmatic" (an "Amazonas"-Interview) – Part I

The German aquarium magazine “Amazonas” (its Russian version) organized an interview with Prof. Dr. Wim Crusio, the author of the Anubias revision. The magazine’s redaction kindly granted us its permission to publish the interview. We express our thanks to the Russian “Amazonas”.

“Amazonas”: After having read your Anubias genus revision (1979) i got an impression that in the first half of the last century botanists were very interested in these plants. In other words, there were collected plant samples, made up species descriptions, reconsidered previous descriptions. What is going on in this field now? Is "classical" botany out of fashion nowadays? Were there new Anubias species described in the scientific literature after release of your revision?

Wim Crusio: No new species of Anubias have been described since my revision. I am not sure whether classical botany is out of fashion nowadays. I think that several factors play a role. We have nowadays much more collections available (and all of those are more easily accessible) than the late 19th/early 20th century botanists. So when we get a new collection, it is often immediately clear that it falls within the range of variation of an existing species. So whereas such a new collection might have been described as a new species 100 years ago, this is not the case now. Also, modern taxonomists often have a much broader species concept ("lumpers") than botanists 100 years ago ("splitters").

“Amazonas”: As I understand from your revision, Anubias leaves form is not of big taxonomic importance in the process of species detection. Here only position and texture of thecae in the synandrium play a big role. Meanwhile, according to this very difference in leaf-blade forms you have singled out 5 varieties of A. barteri. What is the reason, that prevented A. auriculata and A. Haullevilleana (described by Engler and Wildeman) from getting the status of varieties as a part of A. hastifolia species?

Wim Crusio: That's a good question! The only reason why I chose to distinguish 5 varieties in A. barteri and not in A. hastifolia (or any of the other species, for that matter) was purely pragmatic. Many different clones of A. barteri variants are cultivated by aquarists and I realized that if I would all give them the same name, "A. barteri", then this would be very inconvenient for these people. In other words, I think there was a need to distinguish more types within that species. As the other species are cultivated much less often, I didn't feel that it was necessary to recognize any varieties there.

“Amazonas”: Anubias plants have been used as plants for aquarium for a long time and this fact makes them very popular. What made you study exactly Anubia at the beginning of your academic career? Do you have now or may be have you ever had an aquarium or a paludarium at home?

Wim Crusio: I started keeping aquariums when I was 12 or 13 years old and started writing about fish and plants for our local aquarium society shortly thereafter. In fact, my first plant article must have been on an Anubias! I didn't recognize it at the time and identified it using drawings in the book of de Wit, so I called it (incorrectly) Lagenandra lancifolia. Because of the aquarium hobby, I decided to study biology at the University of Nijmegen. As part of my "master's degree", I had to do three research projects, two of 6-months and one of 12. Having been interested in systematic biology for a while, I contacted Prof. de Wit in Wageningen and asked whether I could come there for one of my 6-month projects. Originally he proposed that I would study Cabomba, but the rest of the laboratory objected to that (because officially, the lab was specialized on African botany). So de Wit then proposed Mayaca, but it turned out that it had already been revised not too long before. He then called Josef Bogner from Munich, who suggested Anubias. It was a bigger genus than de Wit liked (given that I had only half a year), but we went ahead anyway and in the end I prepared my revision in about 7 months. After that, I went on to study mouse behavior genetics and did my PhD in that field. During that time, I had no aquarium at home any more, but kept Anubias, Cryptocoryne, and Lagenandra species in the greenhouse of the botanical garden in Nijmegen. I did some experimental inter-species crosses, but unfortunately never had the chance to continue that work (which I included in the German translation of my Anubias revision). After my PhD I left the Netherlands, first for Heidelberg, later for Paris and there I did not have access to a green house any more and my mouse work started to take too much of my time, so I haven't been actively involved in aquariums or aquatic plants since the mid-1980s. But once I start thinking about retirement, I'll certainly start keeping aquariums (and aquatic plants!) again.

“Amazonas”: It is well known, that Anubias species are easy to cross with each other. Particularly, many hybrids of these plants were artificially breed. Surely we can observe such processes in nature. Taking into consideration relatively conditional character of the term "species" in biology and revision as only a way of species regulation with regard for alliances, it is still interesting, how does your revision consider the existence of possible natural Anubias hybrids? What do you think of taking into account genetic features in modern revisions (for instance, in Echinodorus revision by Lehtonen)?

Wim Crusio: In 1977 (when I did the Anubias revision), we did not yet have all the techniques available that we have now. It would certainly be interesting to look at these things! Whether many natural hybrids occur, I don't know. Remember that several species have non-overlapping distributions (A. afzelii, for example).

“Amazonas”: What European Web-sites that provide enough information about Anubia would you recommend?

Wim Crusio: I really don't know enough websites to be able to recommend one, sorry...

“Amazonas”: Do you know any hobbyists who has the most complete collection of Anubia? If yes, could you tell how we can get in touch with them in order to share information?

Wim Crusio: I must admit to being out of touch with most of the aquatic plant world. I would guess that Josef Bogner in Munich still has a good collection, or else would know who has.

“Amazonas”: In this connection I’d like to ask if you have Anubias hastifolia Engl in your collection? In case you have it, please, show us the leaves and if possible the inflorescence of this plant.

Wim Crusio: Yes, I used to have it (not any more...) I have slides from the plant (including inflorescence), but no slide scanner. If I remember correctly, there were photos in the German version of my revision.

“Amazonas”: Please, clear up the situation involving Anubias pynaertii. When working at your revision you dealt with many samples of this genus, but at that time the living plants were grown only in your laboratory in Wageningen. A. pynaetrii is still a big rarity, for example, it is not cultivated in Russia at all. One can buy a plant under the name A. pynaertii with such kind of leaf form (see the picture below). What are in your opinion the reasons for this genus being so rare?

Wim Crusio: I am not sure that the leaf below belongs to A. pynaertii, but it could be. I would need an inflorescence to be certain. Why it is so rare in culture I do not know, it is not more difficult to cultivate than the other species.

To be continued...

Interview: Alexander Grigorov.

Photo: Dmitry Loginov.

© Alexander Grigorov