Will the real Cryptanthus warren-loosei please stand up?
By Virginia Schrenker in SCJ 15(3-4):97-8. 2000
Cryptanthus warren-loosei Leme. A C. acaulis (Lindley) Beer, cui affinis,laminis foliorum coriaceis, aurantiaceis, basin versus inconspicui augustatis, marginibus manifeste spinosis, spinis acicuiaribus ca. 2mm longis, bracteis floriteris fasciculorum distincte carinatis, sepalis acutis acutis, 6- 7.5mm connatis, ovulis ca, 42 differt.” (Elton M.C. Lemne, Cryptanthus Journal Vol.8 Nos. 2-3, Summer 1993)
Forgive me for including the Latin description, but I have been teaching Latin for 29 years and couldn’t resist. Many of us were delighted when, in 1993, Elton Leme of Brazil described species SE-14 and named it C. warrenloosei after one of the Cryptanthus Society’s founders and most enthusiastic members, Warren Loose.
Many members had grown SE-14, and we were eager to have it become eligible for major awards at standard Bromeliad shows. Very often at shows specimens of C. warren-loosei do win top awards. A few years later plants identified as C. warren-loosei began showing up, but they were not the bright orange plants that many of us were accustomed to grow and see in shows. Judges began doubting that they were all C. warren-loosei. Which one is the true C. warren-loosei?
First, a little background information. C. warren-loosei was found in 1983. It was discovered in Amargosa, Bahia. Brazil by R. L. Frasier, et al. It was listed at Marie Selby Gardens as 1995-0437 (CJ Vol. 12, Nos. 1-2, p.29). It is described in The Bromeliad Cultivar Registry by Don Beadle (p.79) as “large to extra large with open oval shape — undulating leaf with rust color at the plant’s center and leaf edges.” On the back cover of the Cryptanthus Journal Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter 1989, it is describcd as “a large plant, with a single leaf measuring up to 12 inches (30cms) in length and three-quarters of an inch (19mm) at the widest point- Leaves are narrowly triangular with medium waves of undulation. There is a distinct raised midrib. Leaf surface in good light is copper -golden, totally glabrous except near the leaf base which is sparsely scurfed. The underside of the leaf shows a dense fusion of whites scales, which covers the entire underside. The radical symmetry is open and oval shape. Pups are normally born between the leaves and rarely from the base of the plant. 6 to 10 pups are normal for the species.” This fits the plant we knew as SE-14. John Laroche (Beadle, p. 136) agreed with this description when he said, “Large Bahia type in rust to bright orange in good light,” Cornelius Colin (Beadle, p.136) said SE-14 is “medium in light green with light brown leaf edges. ” This description fits an SE-14 grown in low light.
Another unidentified species at SeJby, collected by R. L. Frasier in Bahia was listed at Selby as 1987-0239 and referenced as SE-15 was verified as C. warren-loosei by Harry Luther in May of 1996 (CJ, Vol. 12, Nos. 1-2, p.29). Still another Selby acquisition, 1983-0056 collected by D. Sucre in Bahia, Brazil, was also verified by Harry Luther as C. warren-loosei in May of 1996 (CJ, Vol. 12, Nos. 1-2, p.29). I acquired a C. warren-loosei specimen from Dr. Karl Green that Harry Luther had given to him. The plant has the Selby number 1995-0437-Type. To add to the confusion, or the suspense, is a C. warren-loosei specimen that Wally Berg collected in Bahia. Brazil in 1997 that Wally listed as BAB 85-1997 Bahia.
I have obtained for my personal collection several Cryptanthus specimens that may or may not be C. warren-loosei. My “SE-14” is 18 inches across and is bright burnt orange with a dark line down the center of the leaves. In less light it will fade to green with orange to brown edges. I probably obtained my first SE-14 from Bob Whitman at Southern Exposure. My “SEL 83-56” is eight inches across, a dark rust to bronze color with a little redder color on the edges. My “1995-0437-Type” plant is 10 inches across and burgundy to brown down the center rib of the leaves. The outside edges on a younger plant are green, but not on the older plants. My ‘SE-5A” is 15 inches across and is yellow green, streaked with orange to burgundy. Older plants are green with red-orange edges. (The only mention of SE-5 I can find is in Beadle, p.137 that says “cv. of cf. acaulis- (sinuosus ss.) – (see ‘Road to Buzios}”. This adds another dimension to the discussion and, perhaps opens another can of worms.) The “BAB 85-1997” that Wally Berg collected is a rich burgundy with darker edges and is more round than oval like all my other specimens. My C. ‘Arautiac’ is 15 inches across and is clear green with brown to burgundy at the edges and near the center of the plant. Which one is the true C. warren-loosei?
When I heard that Harry Luther was to be our guest speaker for the month of September. I carried in all five plants for Harry to identify. When I asked him which one was the true C. warren-loosei, he replied, “All of them”. What can we conclude from that? Just that C.. warren-loosei has several different cultivars that vary in size, shape, and in color and all can be considered to be legitimate C. warren-loosei. I will consider adding cultivar names to my plant..~ before I show them again. Perhaps I should register those cultivar names. What you think?
Cryptanthus warren-loosei re-visited
by Derek Butcher Dec 2001
Please, Virginia, don’t add to all our woes by naming the various forms of this species. First, may I congratulate you on keeping the clonal numbers. This is something very few growers do. There is the added advantage of a Selby number in that there is a herbarium specimen held for that particular collection batch. To my mind that adds to the value of the plant.
We must remember that a natural species contains plants that share a range of attributes and which can reproduce themselves within this range from seed, if we follow Benzing’s logic. A Cultivar on the other hand, is only propagated by offset to remain homogeneous.
Let us now look at the natural species where botanists love to describe a new species but leave things at that! The case of Cryptanthus warren-loosei is just one example. All of us know that a natural species contains plants with a range of attributes but in this case only one clone was described. I maintain that as each successive collection and herbarium specimen is made the actual voucher should be noted with the variations noticed between this latest collection and the protologue (original description). This way, some botanist could amend the protologue to show how variable this species is. Regrettably, this action very rarely occurs and we are left with lots of unadvised variables in plants still said to be within the species. In other words, a guessing game, unless you have access to these herbarium specimens which do tend to fall to pieces and not show where the differences lie! Even those kept in alcohol should have notes of differences noted at the time of preservation.
Let us look at Flora Neotropica, Monograph 14 where we have a description of a species and a list of collections referrable to that species. The layman would rightly assume that these collections would be within the description given BUT this is not always the case!
So here we have an area where I maintain that botanists are lazy and in these days of computers, information such as known variation within a species can be easily captured and referred to.
The problem does not finish there! Many collections are not made by botanists and identification is often erroneous but plants are still distributed by nurseries etc without locality data.. You are lucky in this regard to have BAB 85-1997 for example because in most cases this information is not available.
How important is this correct naming of living plants? It may be an impossible dream but the BSI and the CS should strive for high ideals and not slip into mediocrity. I have already had clashes with the attitude of “Any name will do!” from Bromeliad Growers who I had thought to be of high standing.
So, Virginia, I am pleased to have at least one on my side in seeking a more responsible approach to identification and ALL, from the newest beginner to the most erudite botanist, need to be involved.