Viola species - confusing latin names

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Tingley
Title: Member
Joined: 2013-01-07
Viola species - confusing latin names

I have some seed of "Korean Violet" identified as Viola koreana 'Syletta', but have also seen it listed as Viola gyproceras var. exilis . Can anyone tell me which one is the current correct name for the plant?

Palustris
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2012-02-10

Fascinating. V. koreana is not even mentioned in the Plant List (http://www.theplantlist.org/) which is my usual port of call for names. Nor is V. gyproceras var exilis. The Plant Finder refers V. koreana to V gypoceras var. exilis so I guess that is the current name for it, but.................................

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I use three sites for checking plant names:

Tropicos (The Plant List uses information from this site), gives a trail of synonymy.
http://www.tropicos.org/Home.aspx

The Plant List - can be controversial, lots of omissions and lots of taxa listed as "unresolved", lots of synonym missing.  Yet still extremely useful, a single source to referee on current taxonomic status and acceptance of names.
http://www.theplantlist.org/

The International Plant Names Index (IPNI).  I typically go here first, because it can quickly be searched and displays all published plant names.  In the case of this violet, I searched Viola for genus and used a "wild card" for species, thus entered g* and it gives me a list of all Viola species that start with the letter "g"... looking through the list, I detect a misspelling at play, there is no "gypoceras", but there is a "grypoceras"
http://www.ipni.org/ipni/plantnamesearchpage.do

The IPNI.ORG site is typically extremely thorough, but subtaxa (ssp. and var.) are not always listed, so there are omissions. On the opposite side of things, there is GOOGLE, which I use constantly, but the internet is often responsible for spreading bad information, repeating misspellings and misidentifications ad infinitum.

There is no published name Viola koreana, so the first thing I checked to see, is there a Viola coreana, the "coreana" spelling of plants from Korea is more common than the alternate koreana, and the two get used interchangeably.  And yes indeed, there is a Viola coreana, it can be found in all three sites listed.

But sometimes it is still best to have a good book, because in this case, the digital sites still don't show the synonymy trail, and I can't find Viola grypoceras var. exilis.  I do find Viola exilis, a synonym of V. volcanica, one of the South American rosulate violets, a dead-end because our subject Viola grypoceras is an Asian species. So, I pull out my 1000+ page Flora of Japan.  Under Viola grypoceras, there's a raft of synonyms + 5 subtaxa described, including V. grypoceras var. exilis (Miq.) Nakai., with two synonyms listed:  V. sylvestris var. exilis and V. coreana.  Aha! the synonymy trail is now complete. Well, it should also be noted that Flora of Japan by Ohwi was published in the 1950s (my copy is a republish from the 1980s), and many of the subtaxa described have now been put into synonymy with primary species, such that, V. grypoceras var. exilis is not recognized, it is just V. grypoceras.

One further clue, I google searched Viola grypoceras Flora of China, which takes me to an entry for this species in the awesome online Flora of China site.  Lots of synonyms of this Viola species, Viola taxonomy is very complex.  At the very bottom of the species description, there is a note: "One of us (Ohba) prefers to treat plants with stems nearly procumbent or creeping as Viola grypoceras var. exilis (Miquel) Nakai.", so perhaps that name can be used after all.  This species is actually found in Japan, Korea, and China, perhaps accounting for taxonomic confusion when species are first published in separate regional floras.
http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=200014364

Last item, the species itself is not normally a variegated leaf plant, so the delightful little plant with silvery leaf variegation is a selection and needs a cultivar name associated with it, thus it typically goes around as Viola grypoceras exilis 'Sylettas' or 'Syletta', the epithet referring to a person's or family's surname.
http://www.perennials.com/plants/viola-grypoceras-exilis-sylettas.html

Phew, I'm tired after all that ;)

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Palustris
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2012-02-10

Yeah, that's what I thought...................I think!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Here's the plant in question, a tiny little violet about 1" tall, if that.  Here it is blooming in mid April.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Longma
Longma's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2012-11-19

A fascinating and most useful read. Thank you.  8)

53.69° N, Dedicated to West Coast Fritillaria, plus three other members of the subgenus Liliorhiza. I grow other Genera, as time permits !

Tingley
Title: Member
Joined: 2013-01-07

Thank you, Mark, for uncovering the true tale of this little plant. Had no clue that my innocent question would open up such a can of worms! I'll try to do additional hunting on the web before asking about other species.  Now I can plant some seed of Viola grypoceras exilis 'Syletta' in confidence. Cheers!

Southwest Nova Scotia, zone 6b or thereabouts

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

My pleasure Gordon, I've been through this research a few times, figured I might as well document it here so that I don't have to remember it again.  Here's a photo of this violet in late September 2012, co-mingling with Cyclamen purpurascens, the fancy leaf  cyclamen coexisting peacefully with the variegated Viola grypoceras var. exilis 'Syletta'.  The violet has the lighter green and white striped leaves.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Palustris
Palustris's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2012-02-10

Should have looked in there first, Viola g.var e is mentioned in the AGS Encyclopaedia of Alpines. V coreana is given as a synonym.

Novak
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-10-07

Mark, thank you for sorting out the nomenclature. I, too, have wondered about the proper name of this violet, and it's great to have a definitive answer.

Given that violets are often sold and passed along under the wrong species name, how confident are you that the violet in your photo is V. grypoceras, as opposed to, say, V. selkirkii var. variegata? V. grypoceras is a stemmed violet, and the plant in your first photo looks pretty darn acaulescent. More subjectively, the plants I've seen under the name V. grypoceras (or synonyms) tend to have leaves with a very dark green background and blunt, not acute, tips.

Fortunately, both V. grypoceras and V. selkirkii are in Flora of China online, so it's possible to key out the plant -- assuming it is actually one of these two.

Janet
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, zone 7a
Webmaster for the Delaware Valley Chapter (dvcnargs.org)

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Interesting discussion.  
What I have as Viola grypoceras var. exilis 'Sylettas' does have a different leaf shape, perhaps like Janet is describing.

Edit to add:  Unfortunately, I don't get to see a lot of blooms on these plants, though they are seeding around nicely.  It seems to be mostly cleistogamous.

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

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