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Ernesto

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How does one differentiate between these two hybrids of P. hirtzii and P. longifolium? P. x roethianum occurs naturally, so does that mean only plants descending from wild populations can be called P. x roethianum? And plants with a P. hirtzii parent and a P. longifolium parent bred in captivity would be P. Rio Mira, as well as all subsequent (F2, F3, etc) generations?
 

littlefrog

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Couldn't tell you how they are different. But yes to the other parts. A natural hybrid isn't necessarily an F1 - although they could potentially be sterile, it is more likely that as a wild population they interbreed with other x roethianum, as well as back to either 'parent' species. Technically, it is probably _more_ likely they would interbreed with either parent species. Given time, they could evolve into a new species (depending on your taxonomic take, they could already be a new species...). What sets them apart is what sets every other species apart- they look like they are intermediate between two other species. Plants that look more like hirtzii would be classified in nature as hirtzii, even if they had some longifolium genetics. And vice versa.

The nature of the RHS registration system (another equally arbitrary way of classifying things) would have P. Rio Mira x P. Rio Mira = P. Rio Mira, no matter how many times you do it. That is just the way it is set up. P. Rio Mira x longifolium would get another name. It also trusts that people are keeping track of their crosses, and that they are starting with properly named studs. This is a pretty big assumption, but better than nothing.

Which way is better? Neither way. Nature doesn't classify, humans do. It is an artifact of academic training and history. RHS isn't a taxonomic authority, it is a horticultural authority. Nature couldn't care less what we call something. Humans get into arguments about it. It is what we do best.
 

Ernesto

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Couldn't tell you how they are different. But yes to the other parts. A natural hybrid isn't necessarily an F1 - although they could potentially be sterile, it is more likely that as a wild population they interbreed with other x roethianum, as well as back to either 'parent' species. Technically, it is probably _more_ likely they would interbreed with either parent species. Given time, they could evolve into a new species (depending on your taxonomic take, they could already be a new species...). What sets them apart is what sets every other species apart- they look like they are intermediate between two other species. Plants that look more like hirtzii would be classified in nature as hirtzii, even if they had some longifolium genetics. And vice versa.

The nature of the RHS registration system (another equally arbitrary way of classifying things) would have P. Rio Mira x P. Rio Mira = P. Rio Mira, no matter how many times you do it. That is just the way it is set up. P. Rio Mira x longifolium would get another name. It also trusts that people are keeping track of their crosses, and that they are starting with properly named studs. This is a pretty big assumption, but better than nothing.

Which way is better? Neither way. Nature doesn't classify, humans do. It is an artifact of academic training and history. RHS isn't a taxonomic authority, it is a horticultural authority. Nature couldn't care less what we call something. Humans get into arguments about it. It is what we do best.

Thanks for the thorough response. Hybrid zones in nature have always fascinated me, and watching the lumpers and splitters go at it with each other is always fun! The reason I asked about x roethianum/Rio Mira is that I learned recently that x roethianum gives off a slightly honey-like scent, and was wondering if Rio Mira would also produce this scent or if that is unique to the population of plants designated as x roethianum.
 

littlefrog

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Great question! I don't know the answer, but it would be really interesting to know.

If that scent is unique to roethianum then that might argue that it has a specific pollinator that it attracts. Which (depending on what your definition of species is, there are at least 30 used in different contexts) would suggest it is a 'real' species. I'm _not_ a taxonomist, but it is the kind of thing I'd spend 30 minutes in biology class discussing. Not because the students care, but I think it is cool. :)

I've found scent in phrags to be... frustrating. Not many species with much of a scent, and some plants that I think smell nice other people can't smell at all. For example, schlimii smells like raspberries. To me. And about 50% of the people I tested it on. But not every clone. So there is person to person variation as well as clone to clone variation.
 

MaxC

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Thank you for asking these questions. I think there's a lot of layers to this and Rob hit on some great points and this touches on a post recently by @eds . I am teaching my daughter words and every page has pictures of animals, etc. When we are taught what a zebra looks like it has stripes as a distinguishing feature to differentiate it from other animals. Is a zebra still a zebra if it has no stripes? Maybe this basic way we learn to communicate runs afoul of our current system of classification and is possibly the reason we feel a need to rectify.

There was a rather interesting discourse over P. x brasiliense some years ago about registering crosses using P. x brasiliense and the ethics involved. Since there was no consensus at the time over it being a species/natural hybrid/man-made hybrid but was accepted as species by the RHS for a time it would be ethically fair to register crosses during that period of time. Now P. x brasiliense falls into the natural hybrid category but since there is still to this day no proof of it being found in situ and same goes for P. (x) tetzlaffianum, which could mean that they were man-made hybrids or that all examples have been removed from the wild, or nobody has found them still, how should these species/hybrids be treated? If you were a botanist what value would they have scientifically in their current state? Probably not a lot, but could be the motivation for an effort to find them in nature or prove they are man-made hybrids. Now as a horticulturist it is a completely different story, both plants are pleasant on the eyes and using them to produce hybrids results in desired qualities (holding multiple flowers and branching, yes please!). I think it is safe say we all play in the Horticultural Society sandbox and much of what happens involves an honor system that Rob discussed.

I have a P. Jason Fischer that likely had the seed parent reversed and looks a lot different, much to it's determent, but it's a P. Jason Fischer. Will it win any awards, nope. Is it pretty, in it's own way, sure. Would I rather have a better looking one able to garner awards, you bet. The vendor even offered to send me a replacement when I sent him a picture of the blooms. Point being once we get into crossing plants it gets a little complicated even at an F1 and can get very complicated. Is a P. Sedenii still a P. Sedenii if you use a P. longifolium frma. album or should it have a different name? Especially since the progeny produced will not be uniform in color. By having access to AOS or RHS awards we end up self policing to an extent.

Since we are simply (;)) trying to grow beautiful plants that produce stunning blooms how far do we wade in to the muck? Some of us care about the history of a plant, clones used in a cross, etc. but what if it was a cross with an awarded division that was incorrectly awarded to the wrong species? Does that detract from the beauty or potential for an award? Say a P. caricinum cross that had a P. pearcei parent but has always carried a label of P. caricinum for 30 years. Should it have it's awards voided? I am not sure there is a mechanic to do this even if you are the person the award was presented to for an awarded plant. Let alone a plant that has multiple divisions in circulation or has been used extensively in breeding. Would most sane people give back a FCC or an AM award?

I think until someone puts forth a unified classification based on extensive scientific research for all known species and natural hybrids there will always be room for a subjective psychological/ethical/moral debate. If and when someone does then we can truly tackle crosses and a better way to provide useful taxonomic system to others. For the non-purist and general horticulturist this current system seems to work relatively well most of the time.
 
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Ray

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Well, in most of horticulture, a man-made version of a hybrid that occurs naturally is usually designated with a capital-, rather than lower-case “x” - Phrag. X roethianum.

The fact that the RHS registrar allowed registration of it with another name suggests to me that they didn’t know there was a natural hybrid, or they decided to go their own way.
 

ORG

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Always interesting to read discussions about Phrag. richteri. The species wwas described on the base of some older plants in culture which shows so different points, which no other species in this time showed. The plants developed inflorescences which produced flowers one year or longer, it was also branched. The feature of the flower was different to all the other. Later on I have seen around 1000 plants in flower, in Germany, USA, Japan and also South America. The variability was very low. Also the selfing of the plant produced very similar plants without a great variability. So I think, the descision that these plants are a species is correct. The plants came in trade 25 years ago also as Phragmipedium amazonica, Phrag. peruviana and as Phrag. topperi.
Here two examples, cultivated in Germany and one plant found in Ecuador.
 

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FrankRC

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A honey like scent cannot be found anywhere in the formal description of x reothianum. This is not a distinguishing characteristic between one group of this alleged natural hybrid and a group of this cross from a lab.

I have been to the location this alleged natural hybrid was reported from numerous times over the past 25 years and notwithstanding extensive searching, inclusive of one 3 day trip to that area where all local populations containing Phrags were closely examined, this alleged natural hybrid could not be found. On one of those trips, I asked one of the collectors from Ecuagenera to come with me and show me the plants. The plants that I was shown were nothing more than longiofolium with thinner leaves. The flowers were otherwise consistent in every way with longifolium. Plants such as this, with thinner leaves, can be found throughout all populations of longifolium. Following the descriptive words in the formal publication, this is the only observable difference, with the width of the leaves stated to be about 2cm. This is nothing unusual for all populations of longifoloium and plants with leaves as thin as pearcei have been documented.

I have several plants of note regarding the name x roethianum. I have a division of the type plant that I got from Kalina, the author of the publication, and the plant is nothing more than a mislabeled longifolium. I have 2 other plants form Ecuagenera that were collected and sold as x roethianum soon after the description. Both of these plants are likewise nothing more than longifolium with leaves about 2cm wide.

The question is not one of "watching the lumpers and the splitters go at it" and masks an underlying naiveté about the species concepts involved in the discussion. From any perspective, be it "lumper" or "splitter", you would need both a verifiable natural population and a stable, distinct character to validate the difference between splitting and lumping. For example, if you are a splitter then you could support your position by stating, correctly, that you split a name into more than one species based upon a static, repeatable, and stable character that someone else contends is not enough of a difference to support a new species. A splitter would say that character A is only present in the plants from one population, this character is always present, and is not present in any plants from another population, justifying my position. A lumper would say that this difference should not be enough to support an additional name. This is simply not the case with the name x roethianum. The correct question is; Does this alleged natural hybrid actually exist in natural populations? The answer is no. The second question is, is the type specimen actually different from longifolium? The answer to that question is also no. Attempting to obscure the science of botany, biology, taxonomy and ecology behind "lumpers and splitters" is unfortunately common.

At a minimum, until a verifiable natural population is located the name x roethianum is synonymous with longifolium and the correct name is Rio Mira..

That being said, the man made hybrid is quite special. Ecuagenera were selling a number of these produced in their lab at the WOC in Guayaquil in 2017 and the plants present as consistent with hirtzii with several distinguishing characters that make the flowers easy too separate from longifolium. They had about 50 plants in flower at the show. I would encourage anyone interested to contact Ecuagenera about availability.

Best,
 
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