Plant-tc Monthly Archive - July 2000

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Re: Intergeneric hybridization in orchid,

While I agree with Lester's comments about unusual orchid hybrids and
specific pollinators I disagree with his final assessment of phenotype based
taxonomy. DNA is just like any other character system, you have to
understand it's advantages and disadvantages when trying to establish
relationships. And yes, I am familiar with a number of examples where DNA
has given us a radical change of view that in hindsight makes sense but I
would add that DNA has also confirmed greater number of the traditional
phenotype relations which were proposed. Until you come up with a pocket
sequencer for use in the field or make it affordable in poorer country's
"phenotype" taxonomy will continue for a long time. I agree that sometimes
you have to think outside the box but 1,000-5,000 basepairs from a couple of
related genes does not make good taxonomy (and neither do 3 or 4 related
morphological characters).

Cheers and good growing,


At 11:02 AM 7/14/00 -0400, you wrote:
>Taxonomy is an artificial attempt by man to catagorize things.  On a genetic
>level it is quite misleading.  I have seen hybrids between Dendrobium and
>Cattleya, and Catasetum,  Cymbidium.  All conceptually impossible by by
>taxonomic relationships and even continental divides ... but the reality sat on
>the bench in flower in front of me.
>Since orchids rely on very specific mechanical pollinators, they have not
>developed the barriers to chance pollination that grasses and other 'powder'
>pollen plants have ... this is why we have so many incredible hybrids in this
>family.  Much is being done at Kew and other orchid research facilities on DNA
>sequencing and relationships.  When these are finally released it will show how
>inaccurate traditional Phenotype taxonomy is in many startling ways.  The
>satisfaction of our curiosities requires we sometimes step outside the
>traditional box .. if for no other reason than 'Why Not'.
Brookside Orchid Gardens  (
23711-32nd Avenue RR#12, Langley, British Columbia, Canada V2Z 2J2
Phone (604) 533-8286 FAX   (604) 533-0498

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