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.

Primulas Rediscovered – P. bullata & P. bracteata

In June-July, 2014 Pam Eveleigh, David & Stella Rankin and Jens Nielsen went to Yunnan, China with the hopes of rediscovering Primula bullata in its type location. Already, in 2012, Jens had located Primula bracteata in its type location and the images he took spurred the three of us to undertake a study of Primula Section Bullatae. This trip would provide necessary field work to that study (Curtis's Bot. Mag., 2014, 31: t. 800.)

In 1883, Père Marie Delavay, a French missionary of Missions Etrangères de Paris (Society of Foreign Missions of Paris), crossed a low mountain range on his way between missions near Er'yuan, in Yunnan Province of China. Delavay had been convinced by botanist Adrien Franchet to collect botanical specimens for the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris and on this range he found two species of Primula, one of them higher up, P. bullata, and one in a gorge flanking the range, P. bracteata.
Our first task on the trip was to return to P. bracteata in the gorge and this we did, taking many images and making observations. It is quite unlike the plants that have been masquerading under this name in cultivation!
Gorge where P. bracteata is found
Research prior to our trip, lead us to believe that the type location for P. bullata, given as Hée Chan Men (meaning black gate or pass), was near the village of Nan Da Ping, but asking the villagers there turned up no knowledge of the place. It was by chance that we decided to explore the East side of the range while waiting to pick Jens up later at the airport in Dali. I was interested in P. malvacea var. alba which I thought could possibly be there, though I had slim hopes we would find it. We found ourselves up random back roads before deciding to turn back for Jens. Just at that turn around point was a house and nearby, a shepherd. This turned out to be Mr. Lu and he was adamant he knew where the pass was and that he had seen the plants we were looking for, after seeing photographs of P. forrestii, a related species with similar yellow flowers. The next day, we met again with Mr. Lu who took us up muddy roads to the top of the range and eventually a small gap in the pine forest with an outcrop of limestone coming out of the red earth. There we did find P. bullata and photographed it.

Mr. Lu with P. bullata
Hee Chan Men, location for P. bullata
The results of this study are given in this table and images will be updated in the Species Gallery soon.



Original name


Smith & Fletcher, 1946


Flora of China, 1996


Richards, Primula,2002  

Eveleigh, Nielsen & Rankin, 2014

bullatabullata

bullata

bullata

bullata var. bullata

rufa

bullata var. rufa

forrestii

forrestii

bullata var. bullata

forrestii

forrestii

forrestii

forrestii

bullata var. forrestii

redolens

redolens

forrestii

forrestii var. redolens

bullata var. forrestii

ulophylla

bracteata

bracteata

bracteata

bullata var. forrestii

bracteata

bracteata

bracteata

bracteata

bullata var. bracteata

pulvinata

bracteata

bracteata

bracteata

henrici

articulata

henrici

bracteata

henricia

henrici

tapeina

henrici

bracteata

henricia

henrici

pseudobracteata

henrici

bracteata

henricia

henrici

henrici

henrici

bracteata

henricia

henrici

coelata var. stenophylla

henrici

not listed

not listed

henrici

dubernardiana

dubernardiana

bracteata

dubernardiana­b

henrici

monbeigii

dubernardiana

bracteata

dubernardianab

henrici

coelata

bracteata

not listed

not listed

coelata

rockii

rockii

rockii

rockii

rockii

a Subsequently changed to bracteata subsp. henrici (The Alpine Gardener, 2005, 73: 401-463.)
­b Subsequently changed to bracteata subsp. dubernardiana.

The Best Christmas Puzzle: Ludlow & Sherriff 1934 (Updated)

A Christmas tradition in my family is to put together a jigsaw puzzle, but I have been working on a “Primula puzzle” too. Using various documents including "A Quest of Flowers" by H.R. Fletcher, "The Gazetter of Ludlow and Sherriff Localities" by W.T. Stearn, field notes and diary entries, I am piecing together the route of Ludlow & Sherriff’s expedition of 1934 which started and ended in Bhutan, but also crossed over into what is now Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh (South Tibet). This involves a fair bit of sleuthing to find old routes and passes with just a few clues from the old documents.

Using the tilt feature in Google Earth helps to find passes which are usually located at the lowest point on a ridge and I grab the image and “push it” so that it moves and this gives the eye a better chance of spotting the scars of trails. In the dry Tibetan zone, routes haven’t changed and there are few new roads. The landscape is dominated by dirt and screes which show the trail scar very well so even if I lose the trail I can pick it up further on and then backtrack.
Trails can be easy to find in the dry zone
It is more difficult to locate the route in wetter zones which are covered in dense forest and where the population is greater and new roads abound. However locating towns where Ludlow & Sherriff stayed and then carefully looking between those points can show the scars of old trails where the new forest growth is a different color to the old growth.
Scar of old trail through the forest
 Along the route I add markers for the Primula collections they made. These can then be linked back to actual herbarium sheets though most aren’t online, unfortunately, unless they are type collections. Doing the same for Kingdon-Ward’s route of 1935 detailed in “Assam Adventure” shows an overlap of the two routes in the region of western Arunachal Pradesh (South Tibet) between the Chera La, heading north up the Tulung Chu valley to the Tulung (Trulung) La where the routes part shortly thereafter. This valley is of great interest to me because here Kingdon-Ward found P. calderiana (purple flowered) lower down and P. strumosa (yellow flowered) higher up. It is this altitudinal difference which is noted in the Flora of China as being a reason for keeping the two species separate rather than combining P. strumosa as a subspecies of P. calderiana as John Richards has done. Where the two species meet there are hybrids of various shades (see species gallery under both species for hybrid images) and I will be investigating the relationship between these species further in the future. Sherriff only notes that he found a petiolarid seed capsule in this valley, which could come from either species (see the species gallery under P. calderiana to see what this seed capsule would look like).
P. calderiana (L), hybrid, P. strumosa (R)
There are lots of interesting bits of information noted by Sherriff including his expectations for where he thought they would find a greater variety of plants. "Dongkar is quite definitely in the Tibetan dry zone. But two miles down stream one meets the Tsuk Chu, and that valley shows the beginning of the "Transition Zone". There are dwarf rhododendrons and also some ordinary, if small rhododendrons too. Then at the Cha La we were still in the sun on the North side, while from the south a sea of cloud and mist was being blown up. It topped the pass and then seemed to fade away. Immediately we crossed the pass we knew we were in a good place for flowers." At the Cha La, they found P. littledalei (which was new to them), P. bellidifolia and P. eburnea.
The "Transition Zone"
Once I have completed the route, it will be appended to this post as an image. And here it is...
Ludlow & Sherriff's 1934 Route
Merry Christmas!

Primula coelata – What’s Old is New Again

(Primula coelata grown by John Richards)
In Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 155:t. 9266 (1932) Otto Stapf described and illustrated Primula dubernardiana. In that same article he described Primula coelata and Primula coelata stenophylla. The name P. coelata* was later regarded by other authorities as an invalid (manuscript) name, but according to the International Code of Nomenclature this name is indeed valid as Stapf provided a full diagnosis and listed as representative collections made by Forrest, Rock and Kingdon-Ward. P. coelata stenophylla differed in leaf shape, hairiness, and farina from P. coelata. A careful analysis of the whole of Section Bullatae by Eveleigh, Nielsen and Rankin (Bot. Mag. t. 800, 2014) revealed that P. coelata is a distinct species (though P. coelata stenophylla is within the variation of P. henrici). Plants of P. coelata have been seen in the wild near Lugu Lake on the Yunnan/Sichuan border and have been grown in cultivation for several years. It is gratifying to be able to put a name on this species.
* The name is pronounced as "koi-lah-ta".

Finding Primula vaginata

Front row, seated from left to right: D.E. Holland, Ugyen Wangchuck, John Claude White, Thutop Namgyel and his consort Yeshe Drolma.
Type Location
According to the protologue for Primula vaginata in J. Linn. Soc., Bot. 20: 4. 1882 and repeated in Fl. Brit. Ind. iii. 484 , the type is C.B. Clarke s.n., La Ghep, alt. 10,000ft. in the Sikkim Himalaya. In W.T. Stearn’s gazetteer of the Ludlow & Sherriff expeditions to Bhutan and SE Tibet in 1933-1950, the alternate name for Laghep is given as Lagyap and the location is a place on the route between Gangtok and the Nathu La just before Tsongmo Lake.

The type collection for Primula vaginata was made in 1876, which was when Chogyal Thutob Namgyal was ruler (see image above) and before the capital was shifted from Tumlong to Gangtok in 1894. It was the tradition of the Chogyal to reside in Tumlong in the dry season and spent the monsoon season in Chumbi and the direct route between the two was via the Cho La. This was also before British movements (1903-1904) focused attention on the Nathu La and Jelep La and so the location given by Stearn doesn’t make sense.


If we look on the section above of this map there are two locations marked as Lapyap, one on the road to Nathu La and one on a ridge leading to the Cho La. Tracing the routes described in J.D. Hooker's Himalayan Journals and Gammie's "Botanical Exporation of Sikkim-Tibet Frontier", we can see that the obvious location is the one on the ridge going to the Cho La. Laghep is described as a stone hut on the ridge at 10,475ft. elevation, so my best guess is near 27°24'40.71"N 88°40'36.51"E.
Courtesy: Kew Royal  Botanic Gardens

P. vaginata leaf base
P. vaginata Characteristics
The defining characteristic of Primula vaginata is its vaginate leaves, which have a broad, sheath like base. This is quite evident in the images above from the wild and a portion of the herbarium sheet K000750413 from Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. 
Type locations
Two other species are described as being similar to P. vaginata. They are P. normaniana and P. eucyclia. Both of these species are from further East of P. vaginata, with P. eucyclia described as being mat forming, more slender and with fewer, but larger flowers, and P. normaniana described as being creeping with even larger flowers, crimson instead of violet flowers, shorter pedicels and flower heads much larger. Images from Arunachal Pradesh do show a slender form growing alongside a more robust form so there are variations within populations. The Flora of China regards all as subspecies of P. vaginata.

George Alexander Gammie

George Alexander Gammie (1864-1935) was an authority on Indian flora and specialized in Sikkim mosses (the genus Gammiella in the Sematophyllaceae is named for him). He worked as a deputy superintendent at the Cinchona plantations, Mungpoo and was able to put into practise a new method of extracting quinine from the Cinchona trees which was very successful. Later he became a lecturer in botany at the College of Science, Poona.

He is perhaps most famous for his book “The Indian Cottons” published in 1907 but for us his paper in Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information Kew No. 82/83:297 1893. “
Botanical Exploration of Sikkim-Tibet Frontier” is the most important.

In this article, he describes his trip to Sikkim in 1892 in three parts. He mentions several Primulas – P. denticulata, P. glabra, P. muscoides, P. pulchra, P. pusilla (primulina), P. reticulata, P. rotundifolia, P. sikkimensis, P. soldanelloides, P. stuartii, and P. uniflora (klattii) and as well as many other plant species. Gammie’s botanical specimens can be found in herbariums E, K, BM. Sometimes his locations seem a bit out of sequence but generally it is possible to map his approximate route on Google Earth, which I have done with the help of J.D. Hooker`s map in
Himalayan Journals V1, 1854.

Trip 1 – Singalelah to south of Kinchinjunga (June 7- July 7)

Tonglu-Sandakphu-Phalut-Cheabhanjan-Ewanangi*-Megu*-Gambothan-Camp-Rongjing-Jongri-Yoksun-Tumloong

Trip 2 – Lachung Valley (July 24 – Sept 20)
Tumloong-Choongtam-Lachung-Camp-Camp-Tankra La-Lachung-Yeumtong(Yumthang)-Momay Samdong-Donkia La-Momay Samdong-Yeumtong-Lachung-Sebu*-Sethang-Camp-Ghora La-Sethang-Lachung-Tumloong
 

Trip 3 – Chola Range (Sept 22 – Oct 5)
Tumloong-Rungpo-Laghep-Pheyeuggong-Chola Pass-Chamanako*-Buthan*-Kapup-Zeylap La-Kapup-Gnatong-Mongpoo

 *Location unknown

 

Finding Primula stirtoniana (updated)

As for any species, understanding comes with information and particularly so for the rare Primula stirtoniana. In 2006, I grew a plant identified as P. stirtoniana and at the time I was happy enough with that identification as it matched roughly the drawing in John Richards’ book and the description of leaves “only some of which tend to be lobed”.  However, since that time I have read the description by Smith and Fletcher which describes the plant as having the leaves “particularly the upper two-thirds, strongly incised-dentate”. Since I am a visual person, it wasn’t until I saw a painting by Lawrence Greenwood that I was able to get a good idea of what this species looked like (and realise that wasn’t what I was growing). The type material is sparse, but now that it is available online, the description of the species is much easier to match especially when you look at the dissected plant on the isotype E00024518 at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Courtesy: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Type Location
According
to the protologue in J.Linn. Soc., Bot. 20: 15. 1882 and repeated in Hook.f. Fl.Brit. Ind. iii. 495 , the type is “G. Watt, Kanglanamo Pass, alt. 14,000-16,000 ft.” in the Sikkim Himalaya. According to Smith and Fletcher, this species was discovered by George Watt (#5419) in 1881 on the Surkia La, near the Kanglanama La, on the NW Sikkim-Nepal border. I have been unable to find the exact location of the Surkia La, but according to Douglas Freshfield in his book “Round Kangchenjunga” he says “it is doubtful if the Kangla Nangmo is a pass at all. It appears rather to be the name given to the plateau N of the Kang La, which sends down glaciers on both sides of the ridge”. So that means that our type location is somewhere near 27°31'21.26"N 88° 3'35.88"E. From Smith and Fletcher, Primula stirtoniana was also collected on the Pey-kiong-la near Jongri (Dzongri) (exact location unknown) and the Nyegu La (exact location unknown) near the Nepal frontier and then at Dungshinggang (Mountain), Bhutan by Ludlow & Sherriff. Unfortunately, other than a low resolution, black and white image in Fletcher’s “A Quest of Flowers” pg 52, taken by Sherriff at Dungshinggang, I have no images of P. stirtoniana from these locations.



A Species From Arunachal Pradesh
In 2011, images came back from Arunachal Pradesh between Lugathang and the Zelung La of plants which looked like Primula waddelili though the corollas did not have the characteristic deeply bifid lobes. Looking at Ludlow and Sherriff’s field notes revealed a collection #751, from Mago on August 2, 1934 which had been identified as P. stirtoniana. On August 1, 1934 Ludlow and Sherriff had parted ways for a few days with Ludlow making his way from Mago toward Lugathang which is about 11kms away in a direct line but there is no indication in the field notes which person made this collection. This collection isn’t online but a friend was able to go to the British Museum and photograph it. The collection is only one small plant but is seems to match the 2011 images.

Careful tracking of the Ludlow & Sherriff 1934 route and comparing with the field notes reveals that collection #751 was made by Sherriff near to the Debong La, just to the west of Dyuri and about 9 miles in a straight line from from the Zelung La.

So is this species from Arunachal Pradesh a match for P. stirtoniana?
Firstly we can look at the protologue for Primula waddellii in Notes of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 9: 56. 1915 in which Balfour speculates that P. waddellii may be a microform of P. stirtoniana but that there are differences, mainly in the leaves. I have images of Primula waddellii from Bhutan and Tibet, so below are a series of images comparing P. waddellii to our mystery plant which I will call “aff stirtoniana”.

Calyx: aff stironiana has ovate-lanceolate lobes with an acute apex whereas waddellii has lanceolate lobes with a blunt apex. Both are scabrid.

Flower: purple color, white eye, hairs in the throat compare favorably; shape varies in aff stirtoniana but never reaches the extreme of P. waddellii.

Leaf: Both are spoon shaped with teeth in the apex or upper half and are scabrid. The number of teeth vary from 3-7 in aff stirtoniana and 6-14 in waddellii.
 
Toshio Yoshida Images
Toshio has three images labelled P. stirtoniana from Nepal on his website. Though the resolution isn’t enough to see fine detail, in Y00673, in Y00672, we see leaves with finely incised apex. In image Y00674 we see a species with oblanceolate leaves and obvious runners. Though P. flagellaris is not listed for Nepal, this image matches that species and we shouldn’t be surprised that flagellaris is here as the type location is in the Zemu Valley, Sikkim, only 40 Kms to the NE of Kanglanamo – so if P. stirtoniana can be in Nepal, so can P. flagellaris. Hara lists specimens of P. stirtoniana from West, Central and Eastern Nepal in “AnEnumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal, V3”.
 
Conclusion
As I said to start, the more information we have, the better will be our conclusions. Our mystery plant from Arunchal Pradesh seems to approach more closely P. stirtoniana but there is a lot of variation in the plants – more so than can be illustrated here. A return visited to the type location at Kanglanamo, and a good set of detailed images would certainly help the situation. Also being able to review the existing herbarium material (which is not online) and to see detailed images from Nepal and Bhutan of P. stirtoniana and P. waddelli would be beneficial.
 
But what was the plant you originally grew? And how does this relate to the similar species P. muscoides? I guess that will be another post!