Nov. 13, 2019

Hawkweeds

How many hawkweeds are there? You could pick almost any number and make a case for it. Merritt Fernald in his edition of Gray's Manual of Botany says specialists "with eyesight stimulated beyond that of the ancient hawks" have named thousands of species, subspecies, varieties and forms.This happens because the plants self fertilize. If you look closely at the first image, you can see tiny pistils curling back toward their flowers. Many of them succeed in reaching the stamens, producing offspring very much like the parents. The plants also spread by creeping shoots that help form large colonies of identical plants. So the patch here may all be identical, and just a little bit different than that patch over there. Or one in Transylvania. So are they different species? Sure, if we want them to be. Do we want them to be so we can publish their name? You bet. Henceforth, this is Hieracium lenaweensis R. W. Smith!