Plant Cuttings

Gone but not forgotten…

Looking back to the annus horribilis that was 2016 we might reflect on the loss of so many icons of the world of music, e.g. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Rick Parfitt, George Michael, and Terry Wogan (whose idiosyncratic rendition of the Floral Dance is deservedly a recognised classic of its genre) – and wonder how best they should be remembered. Arguably, the best way is to continue to play their music.

But another – the second best? – method to commemorate such influential artists must surely be to do what Stephen Ward McCabe et al. have done for a musical ‘great’ of the 1960s; name a plant after them.

Dudleya hendrixii, a succulent that is restricted to a small area of Colonet Mesa (in Baja California, Mexico), has been named in honour of rock legend Jimi Hendrix who died in 1970. The only officially declared link to gifted American guitarist Hendrix was the plant’s discovery by 2nd author Mark Dodero whilst listening to Mr Hendrix’s track Voodoo Child. However, if you look closely at the plant, you should be able to detect a hint of purple haze about the flowers, which is good enough for me. The longevity of this form of living memorial will depend upon the status of the chosen plant.

Sadly, D. hendrixii is under threat in the wild and is the Mexican equivalent of what in the USA would be considered an ‘endangered species’. But, maybe such a plant’s potential ephemeral beauty is also a fitting reminder of the evanescence and transient nature of the creative lives that are so celebrated?

[Ed. – an item concerning an equally iconic plant name concerns Brazil’s national tree – and after which the country is named – pau brasil. Since 1785 its scientific name has been Caesalpinia echinata. However, a recent re-assessment of this species and others in the so-called Caesalpinia group, has concluded that pau brasil represents a unique and distinct evolutionary lineage. Consequently, it has been given a new scientific name, Paubrasilia echinata, which must be one of only a few species whose scientific names have been derived from their common names. A timely reminder about the importance of scientific names is given in Jeremiah Sandler’s guest blog about cedar.]

References

McCabe, S. W., Dodero, M. W., & Simpson, M. G. (2016). Dudleya hendrixii A New, Rare Species From Colonet Mesa, Baja California. Madroño, 63(4), 359–365. https://doi.org/10.3120/0024-9637-63.4.359

Burge, D. O. (2014). Succulent Riches of Baja California’s Colonet Mesa. Cactus and Succulent Journal, 86(3), 110–115. https://doi.org/10.2985/015.086.0304

Gagnon, E., Bruneau, A., Hughes, C. E., de Queiroz, L., & Lewis, G. P. (2016). A new generic system for the pantropical Caesalpinia group (Leguminosae). PhytoKeys, 71, 1–160. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.71.9203

About the author

Nigel Chaffey

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.