Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Cover image for Vol. 32 Issue 2

Edited By: Martyn Rix

Online ISSN: 1467-8748

Virtual Special Issue: Editor's Choice Reviews

While most of the papers in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine are devoted to the description and illustration of a single species, the articles assembled here are of more general interest, covering topics such as the fossil history of trees or the implications of the latest DNA studies on the classification of particular groups of plants.

The paper on ‘The Importance of History’ by Peter Crane and William Carvel describes the evolution of flowering plants from the early Tertiary (Eocene) to the present, highlighting the survivors, or at least those alive now which are nearest to the fossil species. This leads to the account of Wollemia, written and illustrated by John Pastoriza-Piñol, a recently discovered Australian conifer, known to have been dominant in Cretaceous forests. It is worth noting that this has proved remarkably frost-tolerant and easy to cultivate…seedlings from seeds produced at Kew have now been planted out.

Michael Fay and Maarten Christenhusz have written accounts of three orders or groups of related families, the Ranunculales, the Brassicales and the Scrophulariaceae, highlighting the changes and insights which have appeared in the course of recent DNA studies.

The Ranunculales paper leads to the description of the rare Boquila trifoliolata, a climber from Chile in the family Lardizabalaceae, part of an account of the whole family, published as a special part of the magazine in 2012. An account of the genus Dactylicapnos, the climbing dicentras, also in the Ranunculales, is provided by Nicholas Hind.

The Brassicales, familiar to everyone as the order which includes the cabbage family, are even more diverse, but most of the genera have unusual chemical compounds in common, producing the mustard-like taste. So-called cabbage white butterflies attack not only cabbages, but also garden nasturtiums (Tropaeolum species), so it comes as no surprise to gardeners that the two families are closely related. The genus Tropaeolum is particularly diverse in Chile, and John Watson and Ana Flores who live in Chile and have studied the genus closely, have produced an account of all the temperate species.

Many gardeners have been tested by the challenge of cultivating parasitic plants, and taxonomists have often been doubtful about their relationship with normal green-leaved plant families. Michael Fay, Jonathan Bennett, Kingsley Dixon and Maarten Christenhusz have reviewed the parasites and their relationships and, particularly, the relationships of the genera traditionally placed in the family Scrophulariaceae, which contains a large number of parasitic and partially parasitic plants. Lathraea clandestina is significant again here, in addition to its unusual nectar, but even more exceptional is the parasitic tree from Western Australia, Nuytsia floribunda, a relative of mistletoe. Its spectacular displays of yellow flowers occur around Christmas time, and it thrives on the poorest soils by attaching itself to and strangling the roots of trees or shrubs, even cutting through plastic-coated telephone cables.

The emergence of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a major scientific institution was largely due to the energy and hard work of Sir Joseph Hooker, who was Director from 1865 until 1885. To commemorate the anniversary of his death in 1911, Mark Nesbitt and others on the staff of the herbarium at Kew described his collections, from his expeditions to the Antarctic and the Himalayas to the examples of plant products he accumulated as possible crops of economic value.

Although they focus on a single species, other articles which are included in the second part of this VSI, contain revisions or partial revisions of particular genera; others are written by the current experts on that genus. The case of Trichostema lanatum is exceptional. Harlan Lewis (1919 – 2009) was one of the foremost botanists in California for much of the 20th century, a colleague of Ledyard Stebbins (1906 – 2000) and Dan Axelrod (1910 – 1998). He specialised in the genera Trichostema, Delphinium and Clarkia, studying their pollination in the field, growing them in the botanic garden and deducing their evolutionary biology before the advent of DNA studies.

The Importance of History
Peter Crane and William T. Carvel

Wollemia nobilis
John Pastoriza-Piñol

Ranunculales- buttercups, poppies and their relatives
Michael F. Fay and Maarten J.M. Christenhusz

Boquila trifoliata
Maarten J.M. Christenhusz

An introduction to the climbing dicentras– the genus Dactylicapnos in cultivation
Nicholas Hind

Brassicales – An order of plants characterised by shared chemistry
Michael F. Fay and Maarten J.M. Christenhusz

Tropaeolum section Chilensia: an overview
John Watson and Ana Flores

Parasites, their relationships and the disintegration of Scrophulariaceae sensu lato
Michael F. Fay, Jonathan R. Bennett, Kingsley W. Dixon and Maarten J.M. Christenhusz

Lathraea clandestina
Michael F. Fay

Nuytsia floribunda
Stephen D. Hopper

Sir Joseph Hooker’s collections at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
David Goyder, Pat Griggs, Mark Nesbitt, Lynn Parker and Kiri Ross-Jones

Important Papers by Specialists

Anacamptis morio
Michael F. Fay and Hassan Rankou

Nerine humilis
Graham Duncan

Eucomis vandermewei
Graham Duncan

Indigofera howellii
Brian Schrire, Susyn Andrews and Malcolm Pharoah

Trichostema lanatum
Harlan Lewis

Erigeron karvinskianus
Nicholas Hind

Quercus crassifolia
Allen Coombs