Brent Hine, curator of the Alpine Garden, constantly experiments with plants thought not to be hardy in the local climate. This approach yields many surprises, but can also lead to a bit of sadness. In the early winter of 2003, it became apparent that this Cootamundra wattle was going to flower prolifically. And flower it did (specimen shot); everyone at the garden talked about this beauty. Fast forward one year to early January 2004, when a night with temperatures dipping to -12.8°C hits. This plant, soon to have masses of flowers again, did not survive. I recall quite a few disappointed faces.
Australia contains nearly one thousand species of Acacia and is the centre of diversity for this genus of about 1350 species. The wattles are emblematic of the country, so you can imagine the concern from Australian botanists when molecular studies suggested that the genus ought to be split up into a number of segregate genera. As proposed, this would have resulted in the majority of Acacia in Australia being transferred into, and forming much (or all?) of, the genus Racosperma. The genus name Acacia would only be retained by those species closely related to the first species to be described under that name (the type species), the African Acacia nilotica (syn. Acacia scorpoides), meaning a reduction in the number of species in Acacia worldwide to 161 species, with only 7 in northern Australia.
To prevent this, a formal proposal was made to the Committee for Spermatophyta under the rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature to switch the type species for the genus to one of the species that would have been transferred to the genus Racosperma – Acacia penninervis. By switching the species which the genus name is based on, the name Acacia would be associated with that particular species and its closest relatives (most of the nearly one thousand Australian species). This proposal was ratified in July of 2005.
If you’d like to read more, here are a few links: The name Acacia retained for Australian species via the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research; Wattle become of Acacia? from World Wide Wattle; and Orchard, A.E. and Maslin, B.R. 2003. Proposal to conserve the name Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) with a conserved type. Taxon. 52(2): 362-363.
Botany / art resource link: A real treat today: the Members’ Gallery of the American Society of Botanical Artists shares examples of the creations of approximately two hundred botanical artists in North America. A few of the artists have UBC Botanical Garden connections: Lyn Noble is a UBC Friend of the Garden, Vicki Earle has taught courses here at the garden (I took her botanical drawing class) and Vanessa Pasqualetto is a former technician (we shared an office). I hope I didn’t miss anyone else on the list with UBC connections, but I’m sure someone will correct me, if so.