Hybridization — problems, or solutions?

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Claytonia perfoliata species complex on the Tejon Ranch — this is only the beginning of your Montiaceae-related nightmares…

The taxonomy for the annual species of Claytonia (section Limnia) is VERY difficult to work with, mostly because diagnostic characters are not well preserved on herbarium specimens. Unfortunately, a molecular phylogeny that spells out the relationships among taxa in this group is still lacking, but I have added many samples as out-group taxa for my own dissertation studies on section Claytonia (i.e., the tuberous perennial Claytonia)… Is the cause for confusion in field identification due to phenotypic plasticity, hybridization, or both? Is it something else altogether, such as the rapid formation of localized ‘races’ due to poor dispersal capabilities? If the difficulty of accurate field identification is due to hybridization, is this a problem? For taxonomy, the morphological consequences of hybridization are an issue that must be addressed, but for the longevity of lineages, hybridization is probably not a ‘problem’ but rather a solution — it might just be the key to sustaining genetic diversity and promoting adaptation in a forever changing climate — evolutionary success! Before I get too deep into the hole I am digging, we’d better take a look at some nice plant images to really smell what I am stepping in ;)

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Claytonia parviflora subsp. viridis — Tejon Ranch. Note the linear basal and cauline leaves of this mildly succulent annual. Were you to collect, you could rest easy with ID of this plant.

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Claytonia parviflora subsp. viridis X C. rubra ?!?!– Tejon Ranch. Note the non-linear basal and cauline leaves of this moderately succulent annual, and the floral morphology of C. rubra. Yet, this plant retains the fully separate leaf pair of C. parviflora subsp. viridis.

Claytonia parviflora subsp. viridis X C. perfoliata ?!?! -- Tejon Ranch. Note the non-linear basal and cauline leaves of this mildly succulent annual.

Claytonia parviflora subsp. viridis X C. perfoliata ?!?! — Tejon Ranch. Note the spatulate basal leaves. I certainly wouldn’t want to be doing a flora of this area, as I’m sure this isn’t the only group with these kinds of ‘problems’ with hybridization ;)

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Claytonia exigua (left) and C. exigua X C. perfoliata (right) ?!?! — Tejon Ranch. Note the glaucus basal leaves of the plant on the right, which should otherwise look like the plant in the first picture of this post. Yikes!

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More fun with sympatry on Tejon Ranch!!! Left to right, Claytonia exigua, a diminutive C. perfoliata, and something that approaches C. rubra in morphology — section Limnia is tough!

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Could this possibly even be the same as any taxon we’ve seen elsewhere in this blog post? I’m really not sure, but I would lean toward calling it C. perfoliata-like. The C. perfoliata complex, including also C. rubra and C. parviflora, is probably the most difficult group in section Limnia.

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This is also Claytonia perfoliata! Its first leaves are narrow like these. Under drought conditions it can ‘bypass’ switching to the more mature spatulate leaf condition by going directly into flowering and therefore only producing the perfoliate cauline leaves.

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Contrast (or compare, in case of my suggested hybrids) the above pictures with this one of Claytonia rubra — this appears to be a good example of this species which at one point was treated as C. perfoliata but has been found to be a unique lineage and is treated as such.

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Now, compare the picture immediately above (of Claytonia rubra subsp. rubra) with this one — same or different?! Same! Well, sorta… This is ALSO C. rubra, presumably subsp. depressa, which apparently also occurs on the Tejon Ranch — how exciting!

Okay, so interestingly enough, I took all of these photos (and many, many, many more) in only one day on Tejon Ranch with Nick Jensen, a colleague at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden doing a floristic study of the area. His website can be found here. This is a fascinating area because it serves (or, served) as a biogeographic traffic signal for the Sierra Nevada, the Transverse Ranges AND the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. I suspect the evidence for hybridization exhibited by the numerous sympatric Claytonia here is mirrored in other plant groups on the Tejon Ranch where multiple taxa co-occur.

But that isn’t all, of course — the evidence of hybridization reappears in every mountain range I have explored in southern California! It seems to be a battle among divergent lineages to survive and compete for overlapping and limited niche space near the southern part of the geographic distribution of these plants, but maybe a little cooperation wouldn’t hurt for the ‘greater good’ of Claytonia if it increases genetic diversity… In the San Bernardino Mountains, you can find members of the C. perfoliata species complex in sympatry. The evidence for hybridization in this area mirrors what I observed at Tejon Ranch.

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From left to right, Claytonia parviflora, C. perfoliata and C. rubra, all members of the C. perfoliata species complex occurring together in Mill Creek Canyon, San Bernardino Mountains.

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A good example of Claytonia parviflora; note the erect, linear basal leaves that are almost terete in shape, and the cleft in the disc-like cauline leaf-pair resulting from incomplete fusion of two leaves.

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Compared with the picture immediately above, this one looks like a fusion of C. parviflora and presumably one (or both?) of the other two annual species in the area. I tend to think C. perfoliata may have played a role in the formation of this hybrid, but we can only be sure by DNA sequencing or by extensive cytological screening. Note the erect basal leaves that are no longer linear in shape but instead have rather distinct blades — this is NOT C. parviflora in the strictest sense of the name.

In the San Jacinto Mountains, you can find more of the same — members of the C. perfoliata species complex in sympatry and evidence for hybridization that may make you want to tear your hair out if you are working to identify plant specimens collected here. For instance, the pictures below from the San Jacinto Mountains are more or less taken from within ~1 contiguous square mile in Garner Valley.

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An excellent example of C. parviflora subsp. viridis is strutting its stuff roadside in the San Jacinto Mountains. Here, you have more action in the ring coming from the C. parviflora corner than from elsewhere in the C. perfoliata complex — I’m not sure the reason but think it is related to the locality I visited, a recently burned area in Garner Valley with little overstory cover.

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Compare the picture immediately above (of C. parviflora subsp. viridis) with this one of C. parviflora subsp. parviflora — similarly erect basal leaves that approach a terete-linear shape, but a contrastingly perfoliate cauline leaf-pair that is almost completely fused (as opposed to the free cauline leaves of C. parviflora subsp. viridis photographed above). The two appear to have different coloration under the same conditions here as well in both the flowers and foliage. — Garner Valley, San Jacinto Mountains.

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Now, compare the picture immediately above (of C. parviflora subsp. parviflora) with this one of some sort of C. parviflora hybrid — similarly erect basal leaves but these appear to be forming distinct blade and petiolar regions unlike the other two photos above from the same general location… tempting to call them the same, but I imagine this fishiness has both rhyme and reason to it. — Garner Valley, San Jacinto Mountains.

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This plant is OBVIOUSLY different from the rest, but what do you call it?! Under some Jeffrey pines that survived the fire, these plants approach the morphology of C. perfoliata subsp. mexicana but the smaller leaves in the center of the rosette are suggestive of certain races of C. rubra. — Garner Valley, San Jacinto Mountains.

What a wild and wacky world we live in! Claytonia will keep me busy (and happy) for many years to come…

Yukon — too much good stuff!

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Cheers from the Ogilvie Mountains!

Hey, all — I have returned from the Yukon Territory and I want to share with you at least SOME of the highlights regarding my fieldwork there. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden and I summarized most of it in our recent post on Experiment.com (click here to see the lab note), but I wasn’t able share all of the pictures that I wanted to share there — my administrative privileges on Claytonia.org allow me to expand a bit here ;)

So what did I see, exactly? Oh gosh, I collected a fair amount of Silene, a few Androsace septentrionalis seeds and vouchers, at least a few Boechera, and I even grabbed an endemic Claytonia to make the trip VERY worthwhile. Claytonia ogilviensis (two pictures below) was my main target, so I was very glad that we were able to collect it. I found at least one population, but I also got the opportunity to sample from some recent herbarium specimens where C. ogilviensis has been collected outside of the range from which it was originally described, each with a slightly different morphology (and geology) to boot — I am VERY excited to see how this all fits into the phylogeny I am developing (with help from collaborators) for Claytonia Section Claytonia.

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Tuber from putatively old individual of Claytonia ogilviensis in the Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Basal leaf (left center) and remnants of flowering stem (right center) of Claytonia ogilviensis in the Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Based on my recent observations in the field, and from scanning herbarium specimens collected all across western North America, I can tell why many people have suggested that Claytonia ogilviensis (pictured above) may be closely related to C. umbellata (pictured below). It doesn’t help that I am not EXACTLY sure about who the REAL C. umbellata is, considering I collected four distinct genotypes (each with their own distinct morphologies) all within about 20 air miles of the vaguely described type locality. To make matters worse (read about it here), my collaborator has found another distinct lineage of C. umbellata in eastern Oregon that is nearly identical (genetically) to the Ogilvie Mountains endemic (C. ogilviensis) that I just collected… Claytonia is a tough cookie to crack!

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Tuber from individual of Claytonia umbellata in the Diamond Mountains, Nevada.

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Basal leaf of Claytonia umbellata from the Diamond Mountains, Nevada.

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Basal and cauline leaves of Claytonia umbellata from the Pine Nut Mountains, Nevada.

Aside from collecting the narrow endemic Claytonia ogilviensis in the Yukon Territory, I also found an interesting population currently treated as C. tuberosa (pictured below) in the area of Keno Hill. In my most recent nrITS phylogeny, it appears that these plants may be more closely related to samples of C. multiscapa from the Rocky Mountains than they are to other samples of C. tuberosa collected just to the west in Alaska — I don’t yet have chloroplast data to support this relationship (the Idaho area C. multiscapa sequences are from GenBank).

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Face-view of flower of Claytonia tuberosa s.l. from the top of Keno Hill, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Claytonia tuberosa s.l. photographed on top of Keno Hill, Yukon Territory, Canada.

Lastly, I got to see and collect a VERY beautiful Claytonia in the Kluane National Park, a member (and my first sample) of Section Rhizomatosae Claytonia sarmentosa (photographed below). This rhizomatous perennial seems to really prefer talus slopes, not unlike C. ogilviensis, C. umbellata, and the C. “peirsonii” complex.

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Face-view of flower of Claytonia sarmentosa from the Kluane Ranges, Yukon Territory, Canada.

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Claytonia sarmentosa photographed on the King’s Throne Trail, Kluane Ranges, Yukon Territory, Canada.

 

It was a great trip, but I’m glad to be home — with school about to start, and another spring season just around the corner, it is time to REALLY get some work done!!!

Up Next = Molecular lab + Herbarium work.

 

It has been a while, but I’ve been busy…

photoIMG_8879Hey, all — I wanted to share a short post with you, some links that detail my activities in the field over the last two weeks in Idaho and Montana. I’ve been on the hunt for Claytonia, Silene, Boechera and Androsace in alpine areas across these two states, including my new favorite mountain range, the Sawtooth Range (pictures above). At the end of this trip in Idaho and Montana I got my first ever glimpse of the alpine Claytonia megarhiza (pictures below) — I’m beginning to think I should have selected that species for a more thorough investigation… I suppose there is life after dissertation, so maybe this can be my next problem child. ;)

IMG_8952IMG_8954My collaborator, Ingrid Jordon-Thaden, and I have been to some pretty spectacular places (see links below), but it is only going to get better (I think) when we head north to the Yukon (Canada) following the 2014 Botany Conference. I look forward to keeping you all in the loop!

first update: https://experiment.com/u/0gYspQ

second update: https://experiment.com/u/pdFliA

third update: https://experiment.com/u/itzIEA

Beginning of the end of Silene verecunda sensu lato

Hey, all — I thought I would share with you that my recent manuscript with colleagues (Diana D. Jolles and Heath A. Bartosh) describing a new species of Silene (Caryophyllaceae) has finally been published! You can access our article here, or the whole issue is here. It is a very special issue for the California Fish and Game Journal, #100, and the first ever all botany issue for the journal — some really GREAT articles in there that are worth reading, including an introduction by Governor Jerry Brown. Neat Stuff!

combined_finalAs always, I am interested to know what you think about this topic — the Silene verecunda problem is VERY complex, but fortunately the taxonomy isn’t.

THANKS (Experimental Success!)… and a report on my Northern California and Southern Oregon trip to sympatric Claytonia sites

IMG_7744Above, two members of the genus Claytonia from different Sections — C. “serpenticola” (an undescribed species in Section Claytonia) on the left, and C. rubra (Section Limnia) on the right. The two occur in close sympatry in the Lassic Mountain Wilderness, practically high-fiving their cauline leaves. This was a highly productive trip to the north, but before I get to that…

 

I want to say THANKS to all who supported my recent fundraising endeavor with Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden on Experiment.com — we are going to be able to do some much needed fieldwork and conduct fundamental biodiversity research with the money you have all helped us to raise! Thanks so very much, and stay tuned for updates (Lab Notes and Blog Posts) on this ‘open access’ alpine research.

 

OK, back to talking about my recent trip to Oregon and California — I was on the hunt to find locations where multiple Claytonia occur in close sympatry, particularly areas where species may be hybridizing. I am interested in knowing just how well species can maintain their identities in these situations…

IMG_6819I started the trip by meeting up with Larry Crawford for some botanizing in the Sierra Nevada — we found Claytonia sessilifolia (Torrey) Henshaw(pictured above) flowering profusely near Carson Pass in an area that Larry had previously scouted. This plant was featured in the recent Spring Beauty Pageant hosted on my website — it isn’t too late for you to cast a vote for your favorite(s)! In this population it seems like there is only one species present (C. sessilifolia), but this taxon occurs in an interesting habitat (pictured below, with Diana Jolles and Larry Crawford). It also occurs next to some other fantastic spring ephemerals, such as Dicentra uniflora (pictured below) — the hike was well worth it!

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Larry Crawford and Diana Jolles enjoying the habitat on Meiss Ridge

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Following some rest and recovery at Larry’s house (thanks, Larry and Suzanne!), my colleagues and I continued north to Lassen Volcanic National Park, catching a wonderful view of Mt. Lassen (pictured below) — this was my first time taking in such a beautiful sight. I also have never (knowingly) been this close to a stratovolcano. I can’t say that I was nervous that the mountain might erupt, but it actually hasn’t been long since something like that happened (click here to read more about the geologically recent eruption of Lassen Peak). Unfortunately we didn’t find any Claytonia in this area, but we might have also been a tad on the early side for the area we looked — several feet of snow in some drifts. It has been a bit of a whacky weather year…

IMG_6885Having been thwarted by a lack of Claytonia at Lassen Volcanic National Park and lower elevation sites in Lassen National Forest, I decided to book it northward to Crater Lake National Park in an attempt to catch up with a rapidly fading spring. Many of the areas in California where Claytonia have previously been reported as abundant are looking quite parched — the Spring Beauties are apparently less than pleased about it. At Crater Lake, though, we found C. sessilifolia plants blooming where else but in the parking lot (pictured below)!Snagging a few quick pictures of the cinder cone “Wizard Island” (pictured below) in the middle of Crater Lake was just a bonus of doing fieldwork in the area. ;)IMG_6959

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We found some more plants a few miles north of Crater Lake NP on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and I also happened to snap a quick picture of the BEAUTIFUL Mt. Thielsen (pictured below) on my way out of Crater Lake National Park — this is another place I’ve got my eye on visiting. I’ve heard the Claytonia on Mt. Thielsen are quite interesting… IMG_7019

Next was Abbott Butte (west of Crater Lake National Park) — I ABSOLUTELY had to visit that area this year, as it is the type locality for Claytonia obovata Rydberg. Ray Davis chose to sink this taxon into synonymy in the 1960’s — it has been treated as C. lanceolata since that time. Ray mentioned in his 1966 North American Perennial Species of Claytonia that he collected plants answering the original descriptions of C. obovata, C. multicaulis, and C. chrysantha, as well as C. lanceolata at Abbott Butte. Although he didn’t recognize C. obovata, tubers he collected of that taxon from around the type locality that he grew in a ‘common garden’ retained their rounded leaf shape. What did I find at Abbott Butte? Claytonia lanceolata (pictured below, lacking bifid petals), but not any C. obovata — did it not come up this year? I’ve certainly observed this happening before with C. “peirsonii” in southern California… at least Julian (pictured below) found some delicous black morels (Morchella elata-M. angusticeps-M. conica complex). = YUMMY.IMG_7177

Julian enjoys yummy morels...

Julian enjoys yummy morels…

What do you do when you can’t find a species at its type locality? You write a paper about it  — look for Stoughton et al. (in prep.) coming to a Madroño near you. Fortunately, I have seen C. obovata previously with Heath Bartosh at Hull Mountain — this area is also mentioned in the protologue for C. obovata Rydberg. I did find C. obovata with Diana Jolles and Julian Roberts later during our trip near Cory Peak and Mount Eddy on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in the Klamath Region of California, but I want to tell you first about the next stop on our road trip at the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon — Observation Peak (pictured below) is an area where C. “serpenticola” (pictured below, and at the beginning of this post) is known to occur.IMG_7263

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After seeing C. “serpenticola” (pictured above) more or less ‘alone’ in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon on serpentinite and peridotite, we next saw C. obovata (pictured below) similarly secluded in the Scott Mountains of California near Cory Peak — I now had my search images for a hike that was a major part of the trip. The two species occur in sympatry at Deadfall Lakes just below Mount Eddy, which is where we were headed next. I REALLY want to measure levels of hybridization in this population on Mount Eddy — obvious intermediates exist in the area in seemingly marginal habitats.

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What do hybrids between C. obovata and C. “serpenticola” look like? They probably look something like the pictures below — the two species occur in very close proximity in this area…IMG_7574

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SUCH A COOL SPOT — I will revisit this area next year when there is hopefully a bit better snow pack (which generally = many happy Claytonia). Who is coming with me?! I’m climbing up to the top again for sure. Claytonia “serpenticola” (pictured below) grows very near to the summit, and the view of Mount Shasta (pictured below) from atop Mount Eddy is SPECTACULAR.IMG_7698

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After poking around Mount Eddy with Dana York and Julie Nelson, and a much needed night of rest (Thanks, Dana and Eva!), Diana and Julian headed with me south to the Lassic Mountain Wilderness (Six Rivers National Forest) and Anthony Peak (Mendocino National Forest) to see C. “serpenticola” (pictured below) and C. obovata (pictured below) at additional areas where they occur in allopatry — plants were pretty crispy in northern California, but they were still identifiable!

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I am VERY excited to see how things shake out in the molecular phylogeny I am developing for this group… Stay Tuned!!!

Spring Beauty Pageant — let’s try this again…

Hey, all — I’m following up on a popular blog post from last year, ‘which is the cutest?‘, where I pit some of the cutest Claytonia I know against each other in a winner-takes-all Battle Royale… C. saxosa came out on top with about twice as many votes as the other contestants.

I feel the cards may have been stacked during the last contest, the only logical explanation for how C. saxosa could claim victory in a battle o’ cute by such a large margin of victory, right? I have decided to re-run the analysis, this time with denser sampling and a better explanation of how the voting works: There is a poll at the bottom of this post. You can vote for more than one, but you can only vote once!

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IMG_2256(Above) OK, starting it off with the ‘reigning’ champion of cute, Claytonia saxosa standing proud on Anthony Peak in northern California — it is a REAL winner. Definitely a reasonable choice but so many options…

IMG_9512DSC_7423(Above) This is a tough one for me — Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii from the north slope of Bertha Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains still holds a place near and dear to my heart. It was my first introduction to the Claytonia lanceolata species complex, and the yellow blotches at the base of its otherwise mostly white flowers are just enough to give some glimmer — pink venation of petals is weak in this population. Southern California might be a little over-represented in this new poll, but please bear with me — they’re cute!

IMG_5565IMG_5539Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii at the head of Furnace Canyon in the San Bernardino Mountains (above), on the other hand, has quite a bit of pink in the veins of the flower petals. In addition, there is a proliferation of the pink in the veins in place of the yellow blotches typical of many other Claytonia – this is another serious CUTIE Claytonia!!! I’m not giving my vote(s) away this time, but I’d say that this little bugger has a good shot. Still others, still others…

2013-04-06 16.26.54IMG_4958One such other Claytonia worth mentioning is C. lanceolata var. peirsonii from the Panamint Mountains (above), Death Valley National Park  — these plants are truly SPECTACULAR! They have similar flowers to those of the plants on Bertha Ridge in the San Bernardino Mountains, but these plants have much more pink in their petal veins, and they seem to have slightly wider petals. Still other members of the C. “peirsonii” complex (= C. lanceolata var. peirsonii) from southern California deserve mention…

2014-02-15 14.13.21DSC_7061(Above) The REAL owner of the epithet ‘peirsonii’, this is Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii from the San Gabriel Mountains (where the variety was first described) — this taxonomic group will see some changes soon (if you didn’t notice already), with a systematic study of the C. “peirsonii” complex representing a serious thrust of my dissertation. I’m working, I promise, but there is a significant problem in that these plants make REALLY awful herbarium specimens… the beauty is almost entirely lost, let alone the diagnostic characters, so remember to soak it in while out in the field!

IMG_5402IMG_5404Rounding out members of the Claytonia “peirsonii” complex represented in this contest, C. lanceolata var. peirsonii from the southern Sierra Nevada is pictured above. I thought this cutie would have done better in the last contest — I’ve thrown in some props this time to help boost its score. These Claytonia have continued to stun me year after year with their beautiful floral displays, but there are Claytonia outside of the C. “peirsonii” complex that are certainly contenders in the cutest contest we’ve got going here…

IMG_52302014-03-21 16.13.44 The Claytonia umbellata species complex is yet another difficult taxonomic group that ranks high on the cuteness scale — it has not yet been a contestant in this little experiment of mine! Pictured above is C. umbellata from the Pine Nut Mountains at Minnehaha Canyon, Nevada. It has pretty awesome flowers and grows in a series of very fascinating habitats from talus to fully stabilized rock cracks and ledges — a HIGHLY variable group indeed!

IMG_5199IMG_5163The population of Claytonia umbellata at Peavine Peak (above), Nevada, is another fabulous population worth mentioning — oh, so CUTE! I tried to show these plants to Jeff and Jane Doyle when they came out west, but it didn’t work out when a late storm rolled through the weekend of their trip… they saw mostly cold, non-flowering Claytonia, but suggested that they had a good time anyhow.

Great Basin Spring Beauty matureIMGP8015(Above) More Claytonia umbellata species complex from the Pine Nut Mountains at Bismark Peak, Nevada — thanks to Larry Crawford for the two photos above from this location. These plants knocked my socks off when I saw them for the first time — they grow in a very bizarre habitat of frost heaved ‘shingles’ of a sedimentary rock unlike anything I’ve seen for members of the complex. I’m still trying to work out the relationships (part of my dissertation research), but I suspect that C. umbellata is rather closely related to the C. “peirsonii” group.

IMGP0635IMGP0544Speaking of close relatives, I’m hoping to figure out this year just where Claytonia sessilifolia in the central Sierra Nevada (above) fits into the picture — it has remained unsampled in previous molecular studies but I’ll be visiting this population later this week and incorporating it into my dataset. Currently, this taxon is not recognized as anything different from C. lanceolata, but I suspect this may be a stretch. Time (and molecular tests!) will tell, but morphology suggests something unique here, and it already has a name in the literature… Thanks to Larry Crawford again for contributing more photos to the most recent edition of the annual Spring Beauty Pageant.IMG_2705IMG_2704Continuing with more northerly taxa in the state of California, Claytonia obovata from the northern California and Oregon Mountains (above) is another heavy hitter in cutest Claytonia contests past — this is blooming in northern California RIGHT NOW! Although this taxon is currently subsumed under a very broad circumscription of C. lanceolata, it is highly divergent both genetically and morphologically. I’m writing up a manuscript right now about this taxon, arguing why it should be recognized and included in the keys in the Jepson Manual. It will DEFINITELY be in my treatment of Claytonia for the Flora of Oregon Project, which I am collaborating on with Dr. Robin O’Quinn at Eastern Washington University.

2013-05-28 11.51.582013-05-28 11.53.15Of course, in northern California there is also Claytonia “serpenticola” (above), an endemic to ultramafic substrates in the Klamath Region (including Oregon). It has alternate leaves, a different petal shape, and different leaf venation compared with closely sympatric C. lanceolata and C. obovata, so it shouldn’t be confused with either! Yet another taxon that will creep into my Flora of Oregon Treatment… just have to get it into the literature first! Boy, that one is yet another CUTIE — helps that it grows in particularly beautiful areas, too!

2013-03-20 13.52.132013-03-19 14.08.44And who could forget the eastern United States and Canadian Claytonia virginica complex (above), photographed here in North Carolina — this is a CHALLENGING group that has perplexed many a botanist before me… I’m treading lightly — but its pretty stunning, and amongst the first to flower in this region, so it is worth a shout out! As I can recall (its been a while since I dug into this) Claytonia virginica exhibits the longest aneuploid series on record for ANY living organism, 2n = 12 to ca. 190 — wow, that is A LOT of chromosomes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFourth Conn Lake 2013 043Another representative of the eastern United States and Canada, Claytonia caroliniana complex (above) is yet another contestant on this torturous ‘cutest’ contest — these plants were photographed by Mary Jolles in New Hampshire. Thanks, Mary! This group is a bit less troublesome than C. virginica, but it is still a HIGHLY variable group of species with chromosomal ‘problems’ reported similar to those of C. virginica – the two species even hybridize in close contact… Showy, nonetheless.

2013-05-30 13.44.132013-05-30 11.43.27Rounding it out, Claytonia lanceolata from northern California (above) — enough said!

Well, I think I’m running out of pictures, and memory on my website here, so I should probably post already… Don’t forget to vote! There is a poll at the bottom of this post. You can vote for more than one (up to 5), but you can only vote once!

We’ll see who comes out on top this time…

Will the REAL Claytonia lanceolata please stand up…

Hey all!

I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview of my dissertation research, hopefully explaining a bit better how my own research relates to the AWESOME project I’m flying for a limited time only on experiment.com in collaboration with Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden — I know you’re interested in supporting a good cause, so check it out! See the project here.

Many of you may think that you have seen Claytonia lanceolata some time during one of your forays out into the field, but have you REALLY seen it, or just something that looks like it?! Where were you when you saw it? If your answer isn’t Sweetwater, Idaho, than I’ve got some news that could make you want to reconsider what you think you saw — it is possible that you’ve been duped by a lance-leaved imposter!!! Don’t worry, you’re not the only one…

pursh1814_sketch.tiffAbove is an illustration of Claytonia lanceolata from the original description published in the Flora Americae Septentrionalis (Pursh 1814). The illustration is putatively drawn from the type material collected by M. Lewis, although one cannot be entirely sure given how poorly Claytonia seem to make the transition from live plants in the ground to becoming flattened museum specimens — their succulence does not do them any favors in terms of preserving diagnostic morphological characteristics.

Did your plants look like the one in the above illustration from the original description? What about the plants below photographed in the Klamath Region of northern California, last year, growing very near to North Trinity Mountain — did your plants look like these? As far as I can tell, this is the REAL Claytonia lanceolata,or at least something VERY closely related, the best proxy I’ve got (for now) for C. lanceolata sensu stricto.

2013-05-30 11.37.042013-05-30 13.44.13I mention these might be only very near C. lanceolata sensu stricto because these plants have entire petals — C. lanceolata is described as having bifid petals, probably more similar to something like what you see on the flowers of C. sibirica. The basal leaves are also lacking in the plants pictured above from northern California (only observed to be associated with non-flowering individuals in the population), but the sessile, triple-ribbed, ovate cauline leaf pair and the lax, elongate, solitary inflorescence is a dead ringer for C. lanceolata Pursh. The plot thickens when you step off of the granite and onto ultramafic substrates…

2013-05-28 11.53.36 2013-05-28 11.12.53Wait a second — is that a second raceme I see? Lance-linear cauline leaves with a single vein? And are those leaves ALTERNATE?! Surely this is not the same as C. lanceolata sensu stricto — this is one of many lance-leaved imposters masquerading as C. lanceolata Pursh. For better or for worse, the Operational Taxonomic Unit (OTU) above is treated as C. lanceolata in the recent monograph for Claytonia (Miller and Chambers 2006) as well as in current treatments in the Jepson Manual and the Flora of North America. The following plants photographed in populations from throughout California also are ALL treated as C. lanceolata under the current circumscription by Miller and Chambers (2006):

IMG_2684IMG_9512IMG_5528IMG_5450IMG_49592014-02-15 13.41.46Whoa — I feel like this kind of variation might not ALL be related to ‘plastic’ responses to a heterogeneous environment… and preliminary molecular data seems to agree thus far.

This is where the Experiment Project is a TREMENDOUS help — It’d be great to get more samples from outside of California… expanding onto more substrates from across the distribution of C. lanceolata sensu lato, which ranges from Canada to Mexico. Idaho, Montana, and Yukon Territory are on this bill…

The REAL kicker? Check out the last line in Pursh’s 1814 description of C. lanceolata below: pursh1814.tiff“In the collection of A. B. Lambert, Esq. I found a specimen collected by Pallas in the eastern parts of Siberia, perfectly agreeing with the present species.”

Did you see my post about going to Siberia? I’m working on a grant for that right now… I’m really eager to see more plants in the field — as I mentioned previously, these plants don’t preserve all that well! :(

Can I borrow $20? I’ll pay you back with publications…

Hey all — two quick ‘news’ items:

(1) I passed my qualifying exams… wow! Next step, actually writing my proposed dissertation. I am thinking something along the lines of this FUN title:

Circumnavigating the Claytonia lanceolata Species Complex: Systematic Studies of Claytonia Section Claytonia (Montiaceae).

(2) If you haven’t heard already — I am involved with another crowd-sourced fundraising effort in collaboration with a colleague at Bucknell University, Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden. This is the type of fundraiser where EVERY contribution counts! Even if you were to pledge $1, you would help to demonstrate just how much interest there is in research projects like this one.

https://experiment.com/projects/alpine-plant-biodiversity-why-is-it-so-high

 

Hopefully, we’ll be successful in raising funds to conduct field research this summer in Idaho, Montana, and the Yukon Territory (Canada)! Show your support today — you’re NOT CHARGED ANYTHING unless we meet our full fundraising goal!

Floral morphology in Claytonia: How much variation is ‘normal’ for a species?

Ok, so you may remember this recent post, where I asked for interested people to send me pictures of as many flowers as they could photograph…

The premise is simple: How much variation is considered the ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ amount of variation for a species? How much is typical in terms of petal shape, size, and color for individuals in a given population of tuberous perennial Claytonia?! My collaborators and I have noticed quite a bit of variation among populations of different species, but what may be even more interesting is the amount of variation within populations. It might bend your brain the next time you kneel down and take a look around at the tuberous perennial Claytonia blooming in your area (right now!!!)… Better yet, take a picture of 50-100 different flowers from directly facing the flowers (trying to center the gynoecium in the flower as best as possible). Compare all your photos, or send them my way. We’ll get to the bottom of this!

Enter stage left as ‘proof of concept’, a member of the C. “peirsonii” complex from the southern Sierra Nevada — all of the below pictures are from different flowering individuals within a single population, taken on the same day within about 45 minutesIMG_5421 IMG_5418  IMG_5404Note the visitors above: an ichneumonoid wasp (likely a parasitoid braconid) on the left, and a soft-winged flower beetle (Melyridae) on the right. We saw these same beetles last year, and I’ve also mentioned them in the ‘who’s pollinating Claytonia?‘ series — special thanks to Dr. Emile Fiesler for help with the identifications!IMG_5432IMG_5398IMG_5382IMG_5387IMG_5324IMG_5331IMG_5396The variation is crazy, right?!

IMG_5340I really need to get a new ‘cutest Claytonia‘ contest going soon…