Day: July 6, 2021

It’s Going to Make Her Tetra-Neurotic

We are back out at the herbarium again. The human female has finished the asters, mostly. She is still waiting on some identifications from that poor botanist she tracked down and dragooned into her quest to write a proper key to the East Texas species. She sent him some really “lovely” images of what she calls her “problem” children. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to try to figure out what this is!

She is now deep in the genus Tetraneuris. The slanty name means “four-nerved,” because, according to her, “the lamina of each ray floret has four brown or reddish nerves on the abaxial surface.”

I understood two of those words.

Stemless Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris acaulis

There aren’t too many species in Texas, and they’re not that difficult to sort out, especially since several pairs of similar species have non-overlapping ranges. What IS a mess is the changing taxonomy and nomenclature.

In the beginning, there was Actinea.

The plants in Actinea ended up in a broadly-defined Hymenoxys. But then some of the plants from Hymenoxys were transferred to Tetraneuris. Something about whether the phylly-something is something…something.

Here’s one that’s still Hymenoxys.

But this next one isn’t.

So now Hymenoxys is Tetraneuris, except when it isn’t, and all the Actinea linearifolia and Hymenoxys linearifolia are Tetraneuris linearifolia. Easy-peasy. Jot down some annotations, woman, and we can go home and eat ice cream.

Oh, if only it were that simple. For, you see, there are all sorts of misidentified specimens lurking in the folders.

This little fellow?

It’s small enough that it might be Hymenoxys texana and not a Tetraneuris. That would be a Big Deal, since H. texana is a federally endangered species known only from a few spots near the Big City to the South. The specimen’s from the 1920’s though. Would the population even still be there?

What cheek! The human female has pestered another botanist, one who has worked with this genus, and he says it’s just a runty specimen of T. linearifolia. See? The flowers:

microscopes are handy things!

are actually too big!

Wow. Don’t you look foolish! (Why should today be any different?)

What about this one?

Turns out this one is misidentified. Sigyn says you can tell this one is perennial, since it “has a woody rootstock.” T. linearis is an annual with a slender taproot. So this is T. scaposa var. scaposa. The other variety, var. argyrocaulon (literally, silver-stem) has–you guessed it!–a silvery, woolly stem and leaves that are just a smidge more spaced out.

And they live in different parts of the state. Trust me–the dots and the triangles and the stars are hanging out in different counties.

But, just to make it interesting, for many years, the concept of another species, Tetraneuris acaulis (“stemless,” since all the leaves are close to the ground), included the plants now referable to T. scaposa. I did a little time travel and went back and got the botanists to separate the two, so now there are simply scads of old specimens that say T. acaulis that should be T. scaposa.

Real T. acaulis has rootstocks that are enlarged at their tops, just below where all the leaves are attached. It lives up in the panhandle of the state.

If you’re following along, that means this next one, from the middle of the state, isn’t Hymenoxys or Tetraneuris acaulis at all.

It’s just more scaposa. More annotations! My plan is to throw misidentified specimens at her until she gets a hand cramp from all the writing…

Sigyn likes this next sheet a lot.

She says the collector has a very good name.

Great Frigga’s Corset! I thought were were done, but apparently there’s another species that has to be winnowed out. T. turneri, which has a very short cluster of very fuzzy leaves.

It is, indeed, very furry, and Sigyn is, indeed, squeeing.

If we’re not leaving any time soon, I’m gong to start making more mischief. Here’s a good prank.

It’s not Hymenoxys/Tetraneuris turneri. Sigyn says she can see the difference. This one has big leaves that go up the stem instead of being all bunched at the bottom. Tssk, tsk! How could anyone make such a mistake? How could three people make that mistake? Actually, make that five people, three on that sheet up there and two more on the two other sheets of Amblyolepis setigera the human female has just yanked out of the pile of T. turneri and T. scaposa.

Sweet Sif on a cracker. We have been here. All. Day. I’m mischiefed out. I don’t care if I never see another yellow-flowered daisy thing in my life, however many nerves it has or how scapose it may or may not be. This Loki is tired and in need of refreshment!

Sigyn, while the human female is distracted by annotating the last few sheets and noting the new identifications in the spreadsheet, let us avail ourselves of the sweet and colorful snacks she has brought.

Sweetness, look! Under the grapes. Do I spy….rainy cherries?

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