Glaucidium pinnatum

Submitted by Afloden on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 09:31

Made you look!

While Glaucidium palmatum is well known in cultivation and a stunningly attractive plant for the woodland, the only image of G. pinnatum readily available is in the Peony book by Halda and Waddick. What you derive from that publication is that there is but a single type specimen with the flower broken off, but the flower drawn in that missing pieces place, and the fragments put into a packet on the sheet. The label reads,
"Plantes de CHINA. (Su-tchuen oriental.) District de Tchen-keou-tin. --- R.P.Farges."

Finet and Gagnepain provided a figure in their diagnosis based on this single specimen.

Halda incorrectly refers to Tchen-keou-tin as Kangding which is in western Sichuan along the Tibetan border and is largely an alpine area. Farges was mostly in eastern (oriental) Sichuan in the region around Chengkou, which was known as Tchen-keou-tin in his time.

Takeda, a Japanese botanist, discussed at some length the similarities of the imperfect specimen to Hylomecon japonicum. He noted 3 characters that the specimen were lacking that left some doubt about his initial determination, but also mentioned that the filaments and stamens were definitively Papaveraceae and not Ranunuculaceae type. He states that anyone who observes the figures of Hylomecon in Bot. Mag. (5830) or in Maximowicz's Flora of Amur would agree with his view.

Before I found Takeda's paper, and while planning a trip to China, I thought I should attempt a rediscovery of this enigmatic plant that no one had seen since the original collection. Some of Farges collections of Polygonatum have been collected only once or twice since his original discoveries and the recent rediscovery of Thuja setchuensis led me to think I could find this and my Polygonatum. So, as I do with most things, I looked at the type specimen of G. pinnatum. It is available online at the Paris herbarium. It looks like Hylomecon. What I found interesting is that Farges also has a specimen, more than likely, from the same collection (same printed label without a determination) that was later annotated as Hylomecon. This specimen has two stems, flowers, and the rhizomes, and in every way matches the type of Glaucidium pinnatum. Takeda was right, and those of us who lusted after a misrepresented purple-flowered Hylomecon can stop dreaming.....



Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 12:58

Aaron - you are certainly right that it made me look! I'd never heard of Glaucidium pinnatum and had always regarded Glaucidium as one of those wonderful monotypic plants that sits between other plants as a sort of link between different families - and as a uniqely fascinating garden plant. But a purple flowered Hylomecon sounds equally exciting.

Submitted by Afloden on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 13:49

Problem is that Finet and Gagnepain must have assumed the petal color was purple which must have led Halda to assume the plant was actually  a Glaucidium species. In all Papaveraceae I have ever seen pressed the color fades and those thin petals become transluscent brownish shades. Hylomecon is always yellow or yellowish.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 14:36

Ah, I see what you were driving at. It does lead you to wonder at any definitive description of a plant without first hand knowledge of it in Nature - even more it must be valuable to have a sense of the natural variation of a species in a type location. From the viewpoint of someone who often grows plants from wild-collected seed, there can be quite wide variation in seedlings, which tends to be less clear from the botanical designation of 'types'.

Submitted by Afloden on Sun, 04/28/2013 - 06:25

You get the protologue and Halda's picture all in one! When you look at the Paris herbarium and search out the Glaucidium and Hylomecon with Farges as the collector the two specimens are identical. Very sad. I had hoped the plant was real because the area around Chengkou would make it a Glaucidium that would be far easier to grow than the cool-loving G. palmatum.

I had not checked the Plantlist, only Flora of China and did not see it mentioned.