How It All Began

“As well as a flourishing library, the school by 1909 had a wood collection containing specimens of nearly all of Pennsylvania’s native trees and large shrubs. For each species, cross sections and radial and tangential sections had been prepared to show the gross appearance of the wood. The next step was the preservation of samples in alcohol and glycerin so that sections suitable for microscopic examination could be cut. These latter sections were to be especially useful in the study of timber physics (wood technology)." E.H. Thomas, “A History of the Pennsylvania State Forestry School, 1903 – 1929.” p. 67

Monday, February 13, 2017

Do You know How Many Oaks There Are?

Still reconciling my partial list of specimens with their accepted names, and working on the Fagaceae family. When I got to the genus Quercus, wow!

According to The Plant List, there are 4,529 named species of Quercus alone. Of course, by far the majority of those are synonyms of the same species. The referees of The Plant List have determined that 633 of that number are legitimate, unique species and have designated them as Accepted Names.

The amazing thing about that, is that those of you who walk the woods often know how difficult many of the oaks are to identify at a glance. Sure, here in America we can tell "red oaks" from "white oaks" pretty easily, but 633 different versions of those?! And to think that botanists originally believe that they had discovered over 4,500 different species? That's a lot of differentiation.

I think that just is a great illustration of how much variation nature provides us with. As the taxonomists and geneticists do their work, they've determined that seven out of eight uniquely named species are really just morphological variants of the same tree.

At this point of my work, I've determined that we have 43 of the 633 different species. I had entered so many oaks into the database that I assumed we almost had them all. Was I wrong!

So many oaks. so little time...

Quercus shumardii, the Shumard Oak. (Penn State Xylarium). From Wikipedia: Quercus shumardii, the Shumard oak, spotted oak, Schneck oak, Shumard red oak, or swamp red oak, is one of the largest of the oak species in the red oak group (Quercus section Lobatae). It is closely related to Texas red oak (Quercus buckleyi), Nuttall's oak (Quercus texana), and Chisos red oak (Quercus gravesii).

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