Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Misidentified plants are basically inevitable

This weekend my friend Amir came over to see my collection. He was quite taken with the plant I've been referring to as Byblis liniflora, in part because it's a lovely plant, but also because he grows B. liniflora and mine looked nothing like his.

Byblis rorida.
What a lovely plant. So delicate!
Later that evening he sent me some texts suggesting – very convincingly – that I was actually growing Byblis rorida. From growth habit to color to flower shape, it seems pretty clear that I had gotten my seeds with an incorrect ID. Luckily B. rorida isn't really self-fertile (like B. liniflora), or I might have distributed seed incorrectly as well.

I also recently flowered a plant that I've known for a couple years as Pinguicula rotundiflora × hemiepiphytica. There have been some stirrings lately that this is probably an incorrect ID, and this flower pretty much confirms it for me.

Pinguicula laueana × emarginata flower.
This flower is very clear in my mind.
The argument is that this plant is actually Pinguicula laueana × emarginata, and this flower seals the deal. There's no hint of Pinguicula rotundiflora anywhere in this plant, and this flower both looks intermediate to Pinguicula laueana and Pinguicula emarginata, and a great deal like the ping I have that came identified as a hybrid of such. It's good to know I guess!

In that same pot I placed a leaf I received as the same hybrid. It is clearly not.

Unknown Pinguicula.
Call it Pinguicula unknownii.
I don't know what it is, so I assume it's a Pinguicula moranensis (hah). I basically need to flower this plant to have any idea what it is, and even then a diagnosis is going to be tough. I'll probably give this one away to someone who doesn't know about carnivorous plants and won't care about the ID.

How does stuff like this happen? Partly because plant IDs are mostly a loooooong game of telephone, especially for plants that primarily circulate in the hobby through trading, rather than by being produced in nurseries. Very few hobbyists actually have the training to go read a species description, analyze some herbarium specimens, and make an independent ID. Changing labels can be very risky, since sometimes plants can look very different in different conditions. Generally I think people should keep the tags they received unless they're very very confident in changing them. That can just introduce more problems into people's labels.

Some of you who have read the blog may remember when I "rediscovered" a cultivar called Drosera capillaris 'Emerald's Envy'. It's one of my favorite plants!

Drosera 'Emerald's Envy'.
It's so pretty and jewel-like. What a nice plant!
I did a lot of work before I felt comfortable changing the labels. I tracked down a couple different rumors I'd heard, and even reached out to the person who wrote the cultivar and tried to trace my plants to him (I couldn't quite draw the line all the way, but he felt that my plants matched the ones he wrote up years ago). I'm glad I did the work, because it's nice having a cultivar designation to go along with a nice plant.

I know I'm getting a bit crazy when I'm considering buying monographs to see if I can independently key out difficult species in my cultivation. I guess that's the way these things end up.


  1. Haha, I know the struggle of misidentified plants. Lost labels combined with rearranged pots, incorrectly labeled seed, and cuttings/divisions from plants which identifying characteristics have all contributed to plants in my collection that I've spent quite a bit of time trying to identify correctly. Some plants are just hopelessly mislabeled (but still pretty awesome!)

  2. ... I like to think that I know stuff about carnivorous plants, but a plant is a plant. ^-^ I'd love to try and get the ping from you. Although I know your super busy now...

  3. Hi there! Love your pictures but feel your pain! Here's some of my plants:
    and there's a lot that typically go misidentified! Usually that's where I have to pull out all the books and do lots of cross referencing!

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