China 2014

Pam travelled to Yunnan, China in the spring of 2014 to hunt for Primulas. Click image for more...

Primula Rediscovered

Primula bracteata and Primula bullata are found in their type locations after 125 years.

Near Lhasa, Tibet

How do you tell the difference between P. tibetica and P. fasciculata?

Primula ambita in the Wild

The first ever cultivated plant caused a stir at Chelsea earlier this year.

New Primula Book

The latest Primula book is a revision of the 106 species of Primula found in India.

Field Book Project

Field books or notes (and field diaries) are documents written during field research about specimens collected and observations pertaining to those collections. For type collections in particular, they are invaluable as a primary source for understanding distinguishing characteristics, habitat and type locations. They serve a check to verify a herbarium specimen's provenance. 
A published field book by Kingdon Ward
Sometimes these books have been published, but unfortunately these documents are often hidden away in institutional libraries and archives and require special permission for access. As these documents are hand written, they can not be scanned and then interpreted automatically by using optical character recognition (OCR), rather, the interpretation must be done manually.

The good news is that there is a Field Book Project initiative under the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to increase access to these types of documents in digital format. Recently they have teamed up with the Biodiversity Heritage Library to provide central access.

Two field books that have been digitized are of interest to Primula researchers, both by Joseph Rock.
Field book entry by Joseph Rock
The first is Joseph Rock's field book for collections No. 16001-18850 from NW Yunnan and SW Szechuan Multi and Konka in 1928-1929. The transcription of the book can be found here. In this book we can find the entry for the type collection of Primula rockii, No. 16451, which was named for Joseph Rock and was collected in the mountains of Kulu, Muli. Other collections of Primula rockii are Nos. 17401 and 17402, and No. 17885.
Primula rockii
The type entry for Primula cerina, No. 17702, found on the Djesi La (29°49'39.42"N 101°46'26.31"E) south of Kangding is also found in this book as is the type entry for Primula chlorodryas (now Primula dryadifolia subsp. chlorodryas), No. 17027, found on the Mekong-Salween divide and the type entry for Primula stenocalyx var. lueofarinosa (now considered a synonym of P. stenocalyx), No. 17520, found on the Minya Konka range and additional collection No. 17549.

Many other Primula entries can be found in the second of Joseph Rock's field book for collections No. 8035 - 9999 from NW Yunnan and SE Tibet in 1923. Other field books of Joseph rock exist but have not been digitized.

I certainly hope that other institutions start their own Field Book projects to bring these valuable sources of information to light.

It's About Time

Botanical travel can take you close to home or far away, perhaps, the other side of the earth.  The nearest antipodes to me is Port-aux-Francais in the Kerguelen Islands which would be interesting to visit, but it isn’t a place where Primulas grow. My last botanical trip started in Kunming, China after 23 hours of travel and all I wanted to do after landing was to eat and sleep. But in the list of many things you need to do when you arrive, there is one task people forget to do – set the clock on your camera to local time.
Set the local time on your camera
Why would you want to do that? If you are like me, when you get back home you are faced with the daunting task of organizing thousands of images taken on the trip. With the help of photo manager software you can quickly find that special image later on when putting together a presentation or sharing with friends. Some of these programs are free, others you pay for either by buying outright or by renting monthly. I use Adobe Lightroom.
Exif data
Every time you take an image with your camera, basic information or metadata is stored with that image in exchangeable image file format (Exif). The data includes the make and model of your camera and the date and time the image was captured. Photo manager software allows you to sort based on the Exif data included in your images. You can find all the images taken on a particular date or maybe those taken with a particular camera, if you were using more than one (or a camera and a cell phone for instance). If you haven’t set your camera time, some of your images may appear to have been taken near midnight and others the next day, when in reality all of the images were taken in the afternoon on only one day!  If you can accurately sort the images by time, then it makes it easy to find all the images taken at a particular time and add tags to describe locations and plant names to your images. You can also rate your images. With this done, it is a simple task to find your very best images of a plant taken at specific place.

Don’t forget to set you camera clock back when you get home!

Going around in circles - Primula minutissima, Victor Jacquemont, and Mangled Maps

Primula minutissima
It's my curiosity that not only keeps me interested in studying Primula species, but also leads me to exciting side trails of investigation. Such is the case of Primula minutissima, which I was researching yesterday. Looking at several sources of information, the distribution of the species is given as NW & W Himalayas. As this is a large area, I wondered where the type location was.  Most of the images in Primula World are from the area near Rupin, Nalgan and Hampta Passes in Himachal Pradesh. Looking to the original description in “Prodr. [A. P. de Candolle] 8: 42. 1844”, the location is given as “Ghanti India”. So where is that? Smith & Fletcher don’t mention the exact type location in their description of P. minutissima – only that the type sheet is in the Paris herbarium. Sometimes detailed collection information is given on the herbarium sheet, so I looked to sheets P04544185 and duplicate P04544180 to see if there were clues there. Nothing! According to Smith & Fletcher, Royle first collected this species in Kunawar in 1831, but Duby used Jacquemont’s collection #1537 to describe the species. So that started me down the path of investigation into Victor Jacquemont.
Victor Jacquemont - from Bibliotheque nationale de France
Victor Jacquemont was born in 1801, but sadly lived a short life, dying in 1832 at age 31. Despite his young age, he was part of the intellectual circles of Paris in the 1820’s and his botanical contacts included Adolphe-Théodore Brongniart who worked at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle and Adrien-Henride Jussieu who worked at the Jardin des Plantes. It was Pierre Louis Antoine Cordier from the Muséum who invited Jacquemont to India, which he accepted, departing in August 1828 and arriving in India nine months later in May 1829. He continued his travels to Delhi, arriving in March 1830, and then he headed north into the Western Himalaya. He made extensive collections and notes of plants (4787 entries at Paris) and animals, made drawings, recorded observations in geology, geography, meteorology and anthropology and famously wrote many letters to friends and family. In March 1832 he became ill and eventually succumbed eight months later on July 30th. Posthumously his notes, drawings and letters were published.

A search led me to Raj Kumar Gupta’s paper "Botanical explorations of Victor Jacquemont (1801-1832) (PDF)" which gives a description of Jacquemont’s life and which includes a simple map of his route in the Himalaya. Unfortunately there is no place marked “Ghanti”. Gupta says that after Jacquemont’s death his notebooks were received in three parts: V1 Calcutta to Delhi and the Himalayas Nos. 101-2528, V2 Punjab and Kashmir Nos. 1-1541, V3 Delhi to Bombay Nos. 1-818 and also a separate volume enumerating his notes on Hortus calcutensis. It is unfortunate that these original documents don’t seem to be online as the connection could be made from the collection number to a date and then location details in his diary. Maybe there is a clue in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle booklet on Jacquemont (published in 1959), but it is not online either. 

Foiled by Google

With such fame, I thought it would be easy to find a map detailing Jacquemont’s route in the Himalaya, but it proved more difficult than I thought. I looked in the books of Jacquemont notes and letters published posthumously (listed below). In one book, I was able to find a mangled map. RANT – all very nice that old books are scanned by Google (and others), but maps are rarely unfolded and scanned so all we see is a tantalizing piece of a mangled map! Eventually I found a version of the book with the map scanned properly - but the map isn't of sufficient resolution to read the names.

That meant I had to look for other sources of maps from that time period. One of those sources is "The Jummoo and Kashmir Territories: A Geographical Account" by Frederic Drew but once again the maps were scanned in a mangled version. However, I was rescued by PAHAR, which keeps a digital dataset of old maps, specifically those from the Indian subcontinent, pre 1899. Drew's maps didn't help, but the 1874 map "Route Map For Western Himalayas and N India by Montgomerie" was promising but too complex to read. Another map included in "Victor Jacquemont dans l'Himalaya (1830-1831)" by Emm. de Margerie has a map of Jacquemont's route in Kashmir (page 402) but it isn't of high enough resolution to view.
The Buspa Valley from Sungla by Samuel Bourne 1865
Going back to the Jacquemont books, I was able to find references to "Bouroune-Ghanti", variations on the name's spelling - Bouroune, Bourando or Burunda, and where it was located. Some more searching led me to the earlier spelling of "Boorendo" and the paper "Narrative of a journey from Caunpoor to the Boorendo Pass" by Lloyd and Gerard and a simple map showing the pass connecting the Pubbur (Pabar) and Buspa (Baspa) river valleys. Now it all becomes clear and I find I have travelled in a circle...we are at Rupin Pass! According to Montgomerie's map Burunda and Rupin passes may lie side by side, possibly with Burunda at 31°23'15.44"N  78° 8'43.83"E and Rupin at  31°21'7.21"N  78° 9'18.02"E.

Of course, that's what I discovered yesterday. Perhaps more information will come to light another day...

  1.  Correspondance de V. Jacquemont avec sa famille et plusieurs de ses amis: pendant son voyage dans l'Inde, 1828-1832 (various editions).
  2. Letters from India: describing a journey in the British dominions of India
  3. Voyage dans l'Inde.

Primula biserrata is the correct name for P. serratifolia Franch.

I can imagine that in the 1800's it would have been difficult to keep track of the names of new species. If you were lucky the author would have published in a widely available journal or perhaps a colleague would have passed on the information. Or course, it would have been easy to be unaware that a name had already been used when describing a new species and that is the case for Primula serratifolia.
Primula auricula, serrated leaf edge
In 1876, Gandoger described a species called Primula serratifolia, which he thought to be distinct from typical Primula auricula described by Linnaeus. Gandoger quotes "P. auricula Michelet in Billot exsicc. no. 1309 bis, non Lin." The Billot reference is here, though the authority "Michelet" is misspelled, and should be "Michalet", according to the list of collaborators for the publication. The specimen no. 1309 is in Paris, specimen "P04521859", which is incorrectly filed under the name Primula dumicola, and which shows the serrated leaf edge which the name refers to. Michalet does mention that Primula auricula grows at "Baume-les-Dames" in his book "Histoire naturelle du Jura et des departments voisins: Botanique", which is the location where the collection was made. A google search of that location reveals that Primula auricula is common there, though there has been a recent split between northern and southern populations.
Primula biserrata
In 1885, Franchet used the same name "Primula serratifolia" to describe a species from the Cang Shan, near Dali, Yunnan. His description of the species is confusing as he failed to point out the most notable characteristic: the flowers are bicolored, yellow with a white border on the petals (he described them as yellow only). This confusion lead Forrest to believe he had found a new species at the same location, which he described as "Primula biserrata" in 1908. As the name "Primula serratifolia" is already taken, Franchet's description is a later homonym and considered "nom illeg." (invalid). Primula biserrata is the next validly published name and so it becomes the valid name for this species.
Primula biserrata

 Pam Eveleigh © 2016

Sweet Caroline... section Carolinella

Where it began,
I can't begin to knowin'
But then I know it's growing strong

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

... Sweet Caroline.*
Primula cardioeides in Vietnam
In 1891, Augustine Henry married Caroline Orridge, though their marriage lasted only three years due to Caroline's tragic death from tuberculosis. Henry's job as a Customs officer lead him to Mengzi (modern Honghe) in southeastern Yunnan. By this time he was well established in plant collecting and his collection Henry 10735 from the forests SE of Mengzi was described as Carolinella henryi, named for his late wife. Though it was thought to be a new Genus, Pax later included it within Primula as section Carolinella and the species became Primula henryi. Unfortunately this name had already been used, so it was given the new name "Primula carolinehenryi" by S.O'Brien in the book "In the Footsteps of Augustine Henry". This name has since been corrected according to the International Code of Nomenclature to "Primula carolinehenryae" as it honors a women.

Primula carolinehenryae E00255693
courtesy Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Two additional Henry collections were described from the area around Mengzi under the genus Carolinella: C. cordifolia (now P. partschiana) and C. obovata (now P. rugosa). The distinguishing feature of section Carolinella is the calyptrate capsule (the capsules don't split into 5 valves as most other species do, or by crumbling, but rather have a lid which lifts to expose the seeds). Some authorities recognise subgenus Carolinella which includes this section. The species in the section are distributed in SE Yunnan, S Guizhou, N Guangxi, S Hunan, N Guangdong, and N Vietnam.

P. rugosa, P. kweichouensis, P. wangii from Flora of China
In 2000 the paper "Pollen morphology in Primula sect. Carolinella (Primulaceae) and its taxonomic implications" was published, with SEM images of 7 species. It was found that there was considerable variation in the pollen morphology encompassing all 3 main pollen types (tricolpate, trisyncolpate and polycolpate) of the genus Primula and that this indicated that the group was heterogeneous.
Primula cardioeides pollen
From Pollen morphology in Primula sect. Carolinella (Primulaceae) and its taxonomic implications
In 2010 the paper "Circumscription of Primula subgenus Auganthus (Primulaceae) based on chloroplast DNA sequences" was published. The result of this study was that species assigned to subgenus Carolinella are dispersed among the species of subgenus Auganthus and that as defined, neither subgenus is monophyletic and it is inferred that the calyptrate capsule has evolved multiple times in the genus Primula. Also P. wangii which was initially placed in section Carolinella, but subsequently placed by Richards into section Monocarpicae, has an ambiguous position.
In 2015 the paper "Non-monophyly of Primula subgenera Auganthus and Carolinella (Primulaceae) as confirmed by the nuclear DNA sequence variation" was published and it is similar to the 2010 study. It was concluded that the calyptrate capsule has evolved independently at least four times in Primula. P. wangii was found to be close to P. kwangtungensis and P. kweichouensis and so together with P. levicalyx (not sampled) this seems to be a distinct group within the section. In 2014, the species P. hunanensis was described and placed in this group and the following key was presented.

The species presently included in section Carolinella are: P. calyptrata, P. cardioeides, P. carolinehenryae, P. chapaensis, P. hunanensis, P. intanoensis, P. kwangtungensis, P. kweichouensis, P. levicalyx, P. partschiana, P. rugosa, and P. wangii. In future, we can expect that the section will be split to follow the results of genetic study. See the Species Gallery under each of these for more information.

* Don't recognise these lyrics? They're from Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline"

Pam Eveleigh © 2016