23 February 2011

IPPP #3: Pinguicula primuliflora

The third installment of the Infrequent Plant Profile Project, a project I began a while ago at my old livejournal account. I know that I will not stick to a schedule if I designed one, so I choose to make this project informal and infrequent. These will be profiles of plants that interest me and of the circumstances of their original description.

Pinguicula primulaflora "Rose" - the multiple-flowered variety
Source: Alexander (fischermans) at the International Carnivorous
Plant Society forums.
ResearchBlogging.orgToday's species is Pinguicula primuliflora C.E.Wood & R.K.Godfrey, the primrose butterwort, is a carnivorous plant from the Southeast United States. As a member of the carnivorous plant genus Pinguicula (family Lentibulariaceae), this species shares the characteristic fleshy, sticky leaves that capture and digest arthropod prey that are unable to escape. This provides the plants with nutrients that are lacking or unavailable from the peaty or sandy soils they inhabit.

A photo of one of my first plants, which
I quickly killed due to my inexperience
growing this genus. I've had much more
success now.
Pinguicula primuliflora was first described by American botanists Carroll Emory Wood and Robert Kenneth Godfrey in a 1957 paper published in Rhodora, the journal of New England Botanical Club. Their work at the time was focused on researching the flora of the southeastern United States. In the course of their work, they made many collections, including other well-known species from the region, including P. caerulea, P. lutea, P. pumila, and P. planifolia. Their specimens revealed a fifth species that had not previously been described. Pinguicula primuliflora is found from southwestern Georgia and western Florida to southern Mississippi. It is distinguished from the other southeastern species by its showy Primula-like flower and its unusual ecology for a Pinguicula, being found in the shade of evergreen shrubs and wherever there is flowing water.

It is surprising that a species could have been overlooked by so many botanists working in the southeastern US until 1957 when P. primuliflora was formally described. This just goes to show how important extensive research into the flora of a region is. It also provides us with an example of how rigorous research, a large sample size, and careful measurements of morphological characteristics of closely-related species can reveal unique populations worthy of recognition at the rank of species or subspecies.

Today, P. primulaflora is one of the most widely-cultivated Pinguicula species and can be found frequently in hardware stores, often in the appropriately-named "Death Cubes." It is a prolific species, producing many rooted clones where leaves touch the soil substrate. Many cultivars of this species exist, including a spectacular double-flowered variety (pictured above)

C.E. Wood Jr., & R.K. Godfrey (1957). Pinguicula (Lentibulariaceae) in the southeastern United States. Rhodora, 59, 217-230

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