Cleistes Conundrum


Actually, make that “Cleistesiposis Conundrum” since the spreading pogonias in the U.S. have been re-assigned from the Cleistes to the Cleistesiopsis genus! And to make matters more complicated, there may be two different species of the genus in Tennessee. Until now, it had been assumed that the one species, C. bifaria, was what we see growing both in the Blue Ridge and further west on the Eastern Highland Rim and Cumberland Plateau. However, because there are several Coastal Plain species on the Highland Rim, botanists Dennis Horn and Max Medley thought the Coastal Plain  species, C. oricamporum, might be there, rather than the C. bifaria.

To test the idea, the University of Tennessee Herbarium loaned 28 specimens of what are labeled C. bifaria to our herbarium, where Dennis and Max could look them over. The two made many flower, stem, and leaf measurements of each one and tentatively assigned the Highland Rim specimens to the Coastal Plain genus.

The men’s visit coincided with the nature journaling meeting, so it was a busy day in the herbarium.We’re so glad to have had a small part in helping untangle this plant taxonomy puzzle.


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