Most Australian Wattles likely to remain Acacia
The following short note from Bruce Maslin1 and Tony Orchard2 sets out the current status of the debate regarding the revision of the genus Acacia.
1 Department of Conservation and Land Management, Locked Bag 104, Bentley Delivery Centre, Western Australia 6983
Readers will most likely be aware of the proposal made last year that the generic name of Acacia be conserved with a new Type species chosen from the 'Australian group' of the genus (Orchard and Maslin 2003). Discussions and references concerning this proposal may be found at the World Wide Wattle web address.
The proposal has now been considered by an international panel of nomenclatural experts, the Committee for Spermatophyta, which is a specialist committee of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT). The Secretary of that committee, Dr R. Brummitt, recently informed us that the committee has voted to accept the Orchard and Maslin proposal. An official report detailing the reasons for the committee's decision will be published in the journal Taxon (probably in the August 2004 issue). In the meantime we have been given permission to make the report available so it has been posted on the WorldWideWattle website.
It should be noted that the Spermatophyta Committee's decision does not become binding until it has been endorsed by the General Committee of IAPT and then ratified at the International Botanical Congress in Vienna in July 2005.
The Orchard and Maslin action was triggered by the stated intentions of some workers to subdivide Acacia into a varying number (about five) segregate genera. If the resultant genera were named in accordance with the original Type species of Acacia (A. nilotica, syn. A. scorpioides) it would mean that most of the Australian Wattles (some 948 species from a total of 957 species currently recognized for this continent) would most likely become known as Racosperma. Of the 390 or so species that occur outside Australia roughly half would remain Acacia, namely, about 60 from a total of 185 in the Americas, 73 from a total of 144 in Africa and 36 from a total of 89 in Asia. In these three regions most of the remaining species would become Senegalia except that in tropical Asia there would be ten species of Racosperma and in the Americas 28 species would be distributed between two small endemic genera.
The strategy proposed by Orchard and Maslin to move the Type species to the phyllodinous species A. penninervis Sieber ex DC. would mean that if (when) Acacia is dismembered, the name Acacia will remain with the by far largest group of about 960 species comprising the 948 Australian species mentioned above plus 10 in tropical Asia, seven in the Pacific and one or two in the Madagascar region. The 73 African, 60 American and 36 Asian species mentioned above, plus 7 Australian species would become known as Vachellia. The African, Asian, American and Australian species destined for Senegalia (and the two minor segregate genera from the Americas) would be excluded from Acacia irrespective of the Orchard and Maslin proposal. This new generic arrangement is shown in the following table.
Table 1: Species numbers for the five genera that will probably be recognized following subdivision of Acacia sens. lat. (these numbers follow those given in Maslin, Orchard and West 2003). Generic names (column 1) are those that apply following acceptance of the Orchard and Maslin proposal.
2 2 species in Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius. (Note: Du Puy and Villiers 2002 consider that only one species of this group occurs in this region.)
3 948 species in Australia; 7 species in the Pacific.
What does this mean for Australian Acacia nomenclature? Until a formal proposal to dismantle Acacia sens. lat. is published, nothing will change, anywhere. If and when someone formally publishes a proposal that, inter alia, separates Acacia subgen. Phyllodineae from the rest of the genus, then this decision means that the name Acacia follows its new Type species into the old Phyllodineae. For Australian taxonomy, this means that, apart from 9 species which will become Vachellia and 2 which will become Senegalia, the rest (975 species) remain as Acacia.
The above text is a slightly modified version of a paper by Orchard and Maslin, titled Australian Acacia to (mostly) remain Acacia, that has been submitted for publication in the next Australian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter.
Du Puy, D. and Villiers, J.F. (2002). Acacia.In 'The Leguminosae of Madagascar'. (Eds D.J. Du Puy, J.N. Labat, R. Rabevohitra, J.F. Villiers, J. Bosser and J. Moat ) pp. 750.(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: London.)
Maslin, B.R. (2004). Response to Walker and Simpson's views on the ICBN Proposal 1584 by Orchard and Maslin to conserve the name Acacia with a conserved type: ASBS Newsletter 117: 17 - 21 (2004). Newsl. Austral. Syst. Bot. Soc. 118:15 - 19.
Maslin, B.R., Orchard, A.E. and West, J.G. (2003). Nomenclatural and classification history of Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae), and the implications of generic subdivision. Web publication.
Orchard, A.E. and Maslin, B.R. (2003). Proposal to conserve the name Acacia Mill. (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) with a new type. Taxon 52: 362 - 363. [This article can be accessed via the WorldWideWattle website.]
Walker, J. and Simpson, J. (2003). An alternative view to ICBN Proposal 1584 to conserve the name Acacia (Leguminosae: Mimosoideae) with a conserved type. Newsl. Austral. Syst. Bot. Soc. 117: 17 - 21.
What is ASGAP?
Australian Plants online is brought to you by the Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants (ASGAP) .... but what exactly is ASGAP??
Dick Burns, ASGAP's Secretary, explains.....
The first group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants was formed in Victoria in 1957. It was only 5 years later that it was realised that there was value in having an Australia-wide umbrella group.
That umbrella group is now the Association of Societies for growing Australian Plants, or ASGAP.
ASGAP has only 7 members, Australian Native Plants Society Canberra Region, Australian Plants Society NSW, Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland Region), Australian Plants Society, SA Region, Australian Plants Society Tasmania, Australian Plants Society (SGAP Victoria) and Wildflower Society of Western Australia. But, with their approval, it can represent all the 10,000-odd members of all those societies.
Aims and OrganisationThe objects of ASGAP, as stated in its Rules are:
As far as most individuals in the seven regions are concerned, the most important role for national body is in the provision for and promotion of exchange between like-minded people throughout Australia. (Well that's how it is for me, anyway.) And the most important way that ASGAP does this is in the formation and coordination of study groups. The various study groups are listed elsewhere in this newsletter.
ASGAP has a representative within the Australian Flora Foundation. This organisation allocates funds for short-term research projects looking into Australian plants. It has 2 representatives with the Australian Cultivar Registration Authority, one of the bodies that officially registers names for special forms of plants with horticultural potential.
As with any voluntary organisation, objectives can only be achieved if there is a willing and suitable person to co-ordinate the work towards that aim. After some years of searching, a conservation coordinator has been found and he and the regions are already working together on policies, projects, etc.
There are several other positions listed within ASGAP that help with the internal functioning.
Overseeing these and other activities is the Executive. Each region takes turn in providing a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. The Study Group Coordinator and 2 Vice-presidents, 1 from the previous executive region and the other from the next region are also on the Executive.
Getting together as ASGAP
Twice a year, ASGAP Council meetings are held with the Executive and an elected delegate from each region, via teleconference facilities. Other officers attend these to give progress reports. Recently regions have appointed 'alternative delegates' as well to sit in on the meetings, to take over the role when needed.
Over the years, ASGAP Council has not restricted itself to those areas listed above. Some particular issues dealt with in the past 2 years were trying to encourage the use of more Australian plants at Parliament House Canberra and joining in the fight to keep the name Acacia in Australia (see item above). Older issues include contributing to the judging guidelines for Australian plants in shows, incorrect labeling of exotics as Australian by nurserymen and the funding for that most important project, Flora of Australia. ASGAP was part of the successful campaign to have Australian plants used at the Sydney Olympics.
Every 2 years one of these teleconferences is replaced by a Biennial Conference, a one-day formal face-to-face meeting of Council. Each region takes turn in organising the Biennial Conference and that region provides the Executive for the next 2 years. The last conference was held in Launceston in January, the next one will be in Western Australia in 2005. The hosts choose the month of meeting to best show off its flora.
Major issues are dealt with at these meetings. So regions send 4 delegates, rather than just the 1 for the phone conferences. It is important that regional delegates are thoroughly briefed before the conference so that they can fully represent the region's view on all the issues raised. Issues that particular regions wish to be discussed at the ASGAP Conference are circulated well before the day. Each region will have its own way of preparing delegates: I know in Tasmania, these are then discussed at Regional Council, and delegates instructed how to vote. In earlier times, there were very large issues to deal with and the conferences lasted longer: my first one took 2 days to complete its business.
But nowadays, only 1 day is allocated because more exciting things then start to happen. For the next several days, the host region puts on a seminar, and I hope you read lots about the Launceston Seminar in your regional or group newsletter. For a while ASGAP people become part of the crowd.
Finding out about ASGAP
The Association has a website with all sorts of wonderful cross-links. ASGAP publishes its own newsletter that outlines recent activities, issues etc. It is distributed widely, and we hope that this is used as a source of material for regional or group newsletters. And your regional delegate may place a report in the region's newsletter.
We belong to a wonderful society with a great diversity of people as members, doing an incredible range of things with Australian plants. Many members are content tending their own selection of plants in their own special haven. In looking wider, you will have to do a little bit of work, but I believe that's minor compared to the number of new things you find out, the wonderful people you meet, and the inspirational effect that has on your garden.
Eucalyptus Study Group
Margaret Moir has taken over the leadership of this Study Group. Society members who are interested in eucalypts might like to contact Margaret who writes....
The Study Group's web page has Margaret's contact details and lots of interesting information for Group members and eucalypt enthusiasts generally.
"Australian Plants"....in print!
The Society's 48 page, colour (printed) journal, "Australian Plants" has been published quarterly since 1959. It carries articles of interest to both amateur growers and professionals in botany and horticulture. Its authors include the leading professional and amateur researchers working in with the Australian flora and many beautiful and high quality photographs of Australian plants are published in its pages. Topics covered by the journal cover a wide range and include landscaping, growing, botany, propagation and conservation.
A subscription to the print version of "Australian Plants" is $20 annually for 4 issues (overseas $AUS32) including postage. To subscribe, print out the Subscription Form and post or fax the appropriate fee to the address indicated on the form.
Note that the contents of "Australian Plants" and "Australian Plants online"
These are some of the topics covered in recent issues of "Australian Plants":
Australian Plants online - September 2004