In Quest of the Eriogonum Genus and Genius
As of June 22nd 2016, 150 taxa of Eriogoneae are pictured on my website: Eriogonae.com
During the summer 2010, I decided to present an Oregon Flora on my French website Liberterre. Upon discovering the Oregon flora of the Klamath-Siskiyou region, I was already fascinated by the rich diversity of the Eriogonum genus. My first contact with James Reveal happened when I wrote to him to request some help as to the botanical determination of a variety of Eriogonum umbellatum, at Crater Lake in Oregon, which was listed as “var. polyanthum” and then “var. umbellatum”. Jim answered back to precise that he was pretty sure it was Eriogonum umbellatum var. hausknechtii - but he needed to go back to Crater Lake as he had not gone back there since the 1960s - although the leaves of the plants were more tomentose than he would expect.
This summer 2010 was very exciting because I also discovered the presence of Claytonia saxosa in Oregon – on Grizzly Peak, above Ashland. Claytonia saxosa has never, previously, been reported or collected in Oregon, according to Jim Duncan of the Siskiyou chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. I found a number of plants of this species on June 12 th 2010. Jim Duncan had himself collected plants of Claytonia saxosa in another place of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument during the early days of June. Thus, Claytonia saxosa was discovered twice in Oregon during this very summer.
And it became a little more exciting when I discovered a white form of Mimulus lewisii at Crater Lake. I informed the direction of the Park but nobody cared. The only people interested were some breeders, in Michigan or in Wisconsin, who requested from me seeds of this Mimulus lewisii var. albus for their investigations on the Mimulus genome – a genome which has been considerably investigated as per the enormous variability within the 150 species of that genus.
But, then, it became a lot more exciting when Jim Reveal told me that I had found (during the first week of September 2010) a new variety of Eriogonum umbellatum on the slopes of Mt Adams – in the state of Washington. He thought, first, that he could be Eriogonum umbellatum var. hypoleium, but the back side of the huge leaves (up to 40 mm without the petiole) and the huge bracts (up to 35 mm) invalidated that hypothesis. Jim programmed a trip to Mount Adams, with his wife Rose, for the following summer… but they never went. May I propose to call this new variety Eriogonum umbellatum var. klickitatii ? Mount Adams, was known by some Native American Tribes as Pahto or Klickitat.
The genius of the Eriogonum genus, then, disappeared from my life (as well as my Oregon Flora on line) as I had to tread many other planetary paths after the Fukushima disaster. We organized a Kokopelli/Pachamama Festival in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco, during the summer 2012, and I stayed in Peru for 7 months.
We had then a brief exchange of mails with Jim, in June 2013, as he needed high definition pictures of Eriogonum alpinum (growing on Mount Eddy in north-California) for the next edition of his Manual. In September 2013, my daughter Nessa was getting married in Ithaca – where Jim lived with Rose – and I told him I would visit him. But we moved, in August 2013, our French Association Kokopelli to the south of France, in Pyrénées, and it was a huge and full restructuration. I never went to Ithaca.
During the summer 2014, I renewed contact with Jim on June 12th. I had botanical questions and I told him I could not find – on Bakers’ flat on Highway 93 – any Eriogonum villiflorum as noted by Dan Malueg and all., in 2005. I though I would meet him in Twin Fall, in Idaho, at the end of June, for the Eriogonum Society annual meeting. But I had to go urgently home to do some work for Kokopelli France. And, once more, I did not meet Jim.
But we did exchange all through the summer as I realized three very long botanical trips on the west coast – in quest of Eriogonum. I was also sending him corrections to be made in his Manual – as well as pictures, he might love, of Eriogonum. Beginning of August 2014, Jim was really thrilled when I discovered a new variety of Eriogonum microthecum north of Mount Shasta, in California, along Cinder Road. As the leaves were kind of rolled, Jim called that new variety Eriogonum microthecum Nutt. var. cyclophyllum Reveal-Guillet (from the Greek kylos, rolled, and phyllon, leaf).
We had already exchanged, the month before, on my proposition to publish a book on the genus Eriogonum. Jim suggested to work on a manual with keys, descriptions and discussion along with the illustrations – a manual of minimum 600 pages, the best being 800 pages to cover each species, or variety, with 2 pages. In the mean time, he had asked me to try to take pictures of Eriogonum pharnaceoides and Eriogonum gypsophilum for his next edition.
During our last exchanges of September 2014, I sent him also beautiful pictures of Eriogonum thompsoniae var. thompsoniae, for his next Manual, that I had discovered in Kanab, Nevada, at the start of Squaw Trail. Jim answered me back that it was probably the population collected originally by Mrs. Thompson. And he added that as a non-Mormon lady, in a village otherwise filled with Mormon women, she was ignored and so collected plants!
We had even considered a trip together, in north Mexico, for October 2014 but Jim hesitated because of Rose’s health and her problems of memory. A few months later, beginning of January 2015, I went back to France to work there, all the winter, with Kokopelli. The following day, while at work in his office at Cornell University, Jim passed through the threshold to join with the Mother. We thus never met. But we all partake of the same Ocean of Life.
It was a real pleasure to exchange mails with Jim – during my botanical and photographical explorations on the west coast and south-west of USA. He always answered my requests… except when my questions were too metaphysically oriented! And one of my eternal quest is about the origin of speciation! And truly, I am not, and I have never been, Neo-Darwinian oriented.
We had many mails about the variations I had photographed within a number of varieties of Eriogonum umbellatum – specially around our home in the serpentine region at the California-Oregon border. And I questioned Jim on the validity of the prevalent notion of species for Eriogonum umbellatum. Once, as he was answering me back about pictures of Eriogonum umbellatum var. ellipticum I had taken with midstem bracts, he wrote about his doubts about Eriogonum umbellatum being a unique species with more than 40 varieties.
«You will infrequently find such single (or rarely doubled) midstem leafy bracts along the stems of a few varieties of Eriogonum umbellatum. Only in var. argus is this common… The variation within Eriogonum umbellatum is rather surprising, and I have maintained a conservative view in assigning this variation to a single species. As such there are about 40 varieties, and as such exceeds only slightly exceeds the number of varieties recognized in the equally diverse Astragalus lentiginosus — another widespread western North American species. Both of these species are sexual (not apomixic) and thus different from the usual metaspecies complexes. A recent student of Kenton Chambers, Jason Alexander, worked of the Astragalus and is now starting to publish his results. I am uncertain how many varieties he will ultimately assign to the species.
The most extreme forms of Eriogonum umbellatum are var. glaberrimum and var. torreyanum (of the Lake Tahoe area in California), but some accept var. majus at the species level (as E. subalpinum), and if this concept were to be adopted, then other species would have to be recognized as well. Until we have a better understanding of the variation – and how the varieties ought to be grouped – it is premature to subdivide the species ».
Thank you, Jim, for your passion and your love for the Eriogoneae Tribe, for the Polygonaceae Family and for all of the Plant Realm. Thank you, Jim, for your wonderful manual without which this Eriogoneae website could not be. You are, for ever, a Human Giant in the Kingdom of the ErioGnomes!
We shall see, later on, with the Eriogonum Society, if such a book – we envisioned together – about the Eriogonum genus, may emanate from the requests of the Vortex of the Future. In the mean time, this Eriogoneae website is going to invite me to sort out tens of thousands of pictures of Eriogonum – to choose the best ones to be posted inhere. I will follow Jim’s own classification of the Eriogonum genus in eight subgenus which are listed as menus on the upper part. All the botanical descriptions originate from Jim’s Manual (2014 edition).
The self-declared intention of this website, if I may, is to help to render Jim Reveal’s “Eriogonum Opus” still more accessible to the Peoples – through adding photographies to his tremendous life-work of classifications, descriptions and discoveries.
For the Artistic Education of the Freemen, Wisewomen, ErioGnomes and Fairy Tribes and to pay Hommage to Beauty.
Xochi. May 15 th 2016.
The different taxa of the Genus Eriogonum may be accessed, on this website, from two entries:
- either from the upper menu – in order alpha within each subgenus.
- or from the List of Species and Varieties – in order alpha within the genus Eriogonum.
Eriogoneae.com has a blog structure: thus, you need to click on “Continue Reading” to access each page.
I may be contacted at: email@example.com
My two other personal websites are Liberterre.fr (in French, English and Spanish) and Xochipelli.fr (in French).
Paul Slichter’s website is also presenting beautiful pictures of Eriogonum east of the Cascades.