Friday, March 6, 2015

Botany picture #196: Picris angustifolia

Admittedly most of the Cichorieae (members of the lettuce and dandelion tribe of the Asteraceae) look kinda the same at first sight, but still the native representatives in Australia are seriously under-appreciated. And, in fact, with the exception of the 'yam daisy' Microseris people usually don't even know them and assume they must be weeds.

In the case of the genus Picris pretty much the whole scientific community assumed that there was only one introduced weedy species on the continent until as late as the end of the 20th century (!) when Walter Lack and Sebastian Holzapfel identified several native representatives (and found that the introduced one whose name had been applied to them had not actually been able to establish itself in the long run). Unfortunately one of the native species is already extinct because between the mid-19th century collection of its first herbarium samples and the realisation that it is a distinct taxon somebody built the city of Perth on top of its rather restricted area of distribution.

These are the fruits of a luckier and more widespread congener, Picris angustifolia (Asteraceae), from Mt Franklin Road two weeks ago. Note the beautifully feathery pappus which, however, has a tendency to fall off, and the intricate surface structure of the cypselas themselves.

The way the whole group is being neglected compared with other native Asteraceae can hardly be demonstrated more clearly than by the observation that even this local species does not appear to be in cultivation in our botanic garden; and while there is mention of a previous accession in the seed bank database it was from 1947 and is probably not extant. Well, that is going to be rectified now as I handed the fruits in the above picture plus a couple dozen more over to the seed bank. Maybe soon we can have it growing in the ANBG, and perhaps the guides and rangers can tell visitors the story of "the weed that was not", as the linked paper puts it.

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