Day: March 9, 2022

“C” is for “Cardamine”—And Also for “Chaos”, Part I: That Which Is Hidden Will Be Made Manifest Eventually…If She’s Lucky

The human female is back at the herbarium and is now in the midst of the mustards that begin with “C“.

She has determined unequivocally that her previously-designated “Problem Child” specimen is, in fact, Cardamine bulbosa.

That is the LAST thing she will be sure of today!

There are a lot of Cardamine species (not as many as Arabis Boechera, but enough). Most of them have divided leaves and white flowers. Except, of course, for the ones that have pinkish or purple flowers and/or simple leaves.

The perennial species more or less sort themselves out neatly. It’s the little weedy annual ones I’m enjoying watching her struggle with. She’s peering at hairs under the microscope. Are there any? Multitudes or just a few? Long enough to be “hirsute”, or merely “pubescent”? And are the leaflets decurrent on the rachis or not? And while we’re at it, are the seeds in one row in each locule, or two?

She’s developing a decided squint, and I’m no longer sure that her eyes aren’t moving independently of one another…

And here’s my new favorite plant:

Maybe.

You see, there is a whole cluster of species that closely resemble one another, but some have straight stems, some have zig-zaggy stems, and some have stems which are only slightly ziggy. Or maybe zaggy. Some stand upright; some flop about a bit. Some have a basal rosette of leaves and some do not. A few years ago, some clever person (not the human female) figured out that the sort of atypical, floppy ones that appeared to be weeds from Asia did not actually belong to any of the named species. They’re their own thing, henceforth dubbed Cardamine occulta (for “hidden”, given that they were hiding in plain sight.)

Since the notion of C. occulta is a new one, pretty much all of the herbarium sheets of it everywhere are “hiding” under other names—such as C. debilis, which turns out not to be a good species at all. The human female doesn’t have any good references to go by, and there aren’t published keys that include it and differentiate it from all of its kindred. So is that sheet up there C. occulta or not? (And if not, is it C. flexuosa or C. pensylvanica?)

She feels that if she could just have one confidently identified C. occulta to use as a mental yardstick, she could get this mess sorted out. She has emailed one of the authors of the paper that described C. occulta to ask if he’d be willing to look at some scans or good photos. *I* have also emailed him, letting him know that if he answers her, she will no doubt pester him with a million further cruciferous questions, and advising him to route her missive straight to the trash folder.

I just love watching her hopeful face fall each day as she opens her inbox and sees that no help is forthcoming…

That “Problem Children” folder is filling fast.

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