Monday 23 September 2013

A plant from Beckler's list -- Centaurium spicatum

My name is Roslyn Glow and am one of the original members of the Beckler's Botanical Bounty Project. The name of one of the plants I have collected has a fascinating, but convoluted, history. 

Centaurium spicatum (L.) Fritsch ex Janch.

This plant is a small annual (sometimes biannual) herb, from 2 to 30 cms high.  Reportedly it can have pink, red or yellow flowers, but I have seen and collected only the pink flowered specimen.

Photo of Centaurium spicatum (L.) Janch.

It is listed as Centaurium spicatum (L.) Fritsch ex Janch in the list of plants collected near Menindee by Beckler in October 1860, and in the current plant list of Kinchega National Park.

The species was first collected by Robert Brown. He was the naturalist on the Investigator, and sailed with Matthew Flinders from 1801 to 1805. On board was his friend and artist, Ferdinand Bauer. The type specimen of C. spicatum was collected in Western Australia during the 42 days of collection there in 1801.  

The plant was first published in 1810, being one of 2000 species named in Prodromus florae Novae Hollandia, half of Brown’s collections of 4000 specimens from the voyage.  It was hoped that this work would be illustrated, but it was not. Ferdinand Bauer made a prodigious number of drawings on this expedition. These remain archived, but not indexed, so it is not known if he illustrated this plant.

In 1917, this plant was reclassified by George Claridge Druce, who considered that Erythracea was an illegitimate synonym of Centaurium.  The plant then became Centaurium australe.

In 1928 Karel Domin reclassified it to Erythraea, as E.  spicata.

In 1996 the plant was restored to Centaurium, as C. australis (L.) Fritsch ex Janch.

In 2004 the Centaurium genus was revised by Mansion. Using chromosome analysis he differentiated the Australian species Schenkia australis  from others (S. spicata).  This name is accepted in the Australian Plant Census, but the previous name Centaurium spicatum, is still used in several Australian herbariums, including the State Herbarium of Victoria. 

Schenkia australisis is endemic to Australia.  It is common in all states, except Tasmania, where it is rare.  

C. spicatum, growing on the banks of the Menindee Lakes.
(Photograph copyright Roslyn Glow)

Some sources suggest that this plant is an environmental weed, and indeed it may be in some locations, but there is also the possibility that it has been confused with Centaurium erythraea, among whose common names is European Centaury.
Lake edge where C. spicatum was collected
(Photograph copyright of Roslyn Glow)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Add your thoughts.....we would love to hear what you have to say!