Monday, February 13, 2012

Dichanthelium werneri

Like many eager Sasquatch documentarians before me, I feel compelled to share a video of an organism whose existence is denied by the scientific community. If you know Dichanthelium linearifolium, this creature should look different to you for reasons I point out in the video.

Dichanthelium werneri had a brief but glorious history as a species until an uncharacteristically brash M.L. Fernald (1934) sunk it as a variety of D. linearifolium. I usually enjoy Fernald's take on botanical matters, but he really stepped over the limits of decency in his dealings with Panic Grasses. Many modern workers have buried it completely, largely based on Fernald's inertia I fear. With the exception of the treatment found in Hitchcock and Chase's "North American Species of Panicum" (from 1910), everyone says it is just a glabrous version of D. linearifolium. However, Hitchcock and Chase explain that the type specimen is in fact pubescent on the nodes and that this solid species more closely resembles D. depauperatum for many characters.

I wholeheartedly agree with them and in fact, once I began noticing the habit and vegetative differences between D. linearifolium and D. depauperatum, D. werneri emerged from the mist of crypticism. I see nearly glabrous plants occasionally but most plants are quite pubescent on the internodes and sheaths. I also see glabrous examples D. linearifolium that are not D. werneri, which further confuses the matter. The current placement of this amazing little grass really is a shame. Were I not bound by the economic realities of life, I would devote my time to rectifying it immediately.
Fernald, M.L. 1934. Realignments in the Genus Panicum. Rhodora 36(#423).

Hitchcock, A.S. and A. Chase. 1910. North American Species of Panicum. Contributions from the National Herbarium vol. 15