Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD1009 Portea petropolitana var. Extensa.
by Derek Butcher October 2009

Everybody knows this plant used in landscaping around Queenland. It is even grown in Adelaide but in shadehouses! In fact of the three varieties of this species,( var. petropolitana, var. extensa, and var. noettigii ) it is the easiest to identify. I love the name because when you finally get used to speaking the name, it rolls off the tongue and you get a warm feeling inside. Time in writing labels can be irritating! But there is a little problem. How many of you bought the latest BSI Binomial lists when in Cairns at the WBC in 2008? Looking at the species of Portea you may have noticed the disappearance of petropolitana var extensa but the addition of orthopoda. You may not have realised the link between these two names and you will have to believe me in this.
In 1892 Streptocalyx orthopoda was described by Baker. In 1935 Mez considered it was the same as noettigii. In 1943 Lyman Smith agreed with this move. This in itself is surprising because if you compare the way Mez looked at Bromeliaceae and how L B Smith looked at Bromeliaceae you will see what I mean!. In 1943 L B Smith named var extensa based in Fosterís collection number 196. It would seem that the plant we have in Australia has strong links with this collection.
I understand that Coffani-Nunes started on his Doctoral thesis on Portea early in 2000 because we know that he marked the New York Botanical Gardens Herbarium specimen as Portea petropolitana var extensa. When he presented his thesis he must have had second thoughts because he considered that Streptocalyx orthopoda was the same as var. extensa and because it was published earlier, it had precedence. We donít know the reasons!
Let us have a quick look at Doctoral theses and the like. They are not published material Ė per se Ė but they hold a wealth of information. For example I have amongst others, ones on Catopsis, Encholirium, Orthophytum and lately Fosterella. To show how popular they are, I am probably the only one in Australia that has them, but then I am always asking questions to increase my knowledge in Bromeliaceae! I would have liked to have seen Coffani-Nunes work but have been ignored. The same thing has happened to the European taxonomists and if I donít know why something has been done I put it on the backburner.
So I recommend you leave your label as Portea petropolitana var extensa. I know you are going to say this is the first time Butcher has said this but there is always a first..
The attached photo was taken by Ian Hook when visiting the Alma Park Zoo, in Brisbane.

By the way, in the BSI Binomial list 2008 there was a new genus by the name of Lapa to cover the yellow flowered Orthophytum. Eventually, we may see this as Lapanthus. Regrettably this announcement was premature as there is already a genus Lappa for some algae or something.

Ian Hook, Alma Park Zoo, Brisbane 12/01.
Ian Hook, Sydney 12/04.
Ian Hook, Sydney 01/05.

Updated 06/10/09