General Discussions

Wakefield: Ferns of Victoria 1955 *

3. Variable Species.

a. Hypolepis

The genus Hypolepis officially contains five closely related species (one named the Ruddy H.) which were, and are, almost impossible to tell apart. The group, generally referred to as "Those Ruddy Hypolepis's", is the despair of amateur botanists.

When I was a child all four of the then known species supposedly grew along the Olinda Creek above the Falls. One morning I walked down the Creek and collected a leaf from every plant I could find. Then I got Wakefield's fern book and tried to arrange them. I had specimens matching three species fairly well, with an evenly graded spread of everything between.

It is interesting to look at the history of this genus. In 1934 there were two species listed, in 1955 there were four, and five in 1994. Neither of the original names appears in 1994.

Gastrodea ?

b. Gastrodea

In 1998 our company moved into an office in Malvern Road, Gardiner. There was a large window box along the side of the building facing Malvern Road. This had been planted with belladonna lilies and similar undesirables, but in one spot there was a patch of potato orchids. These are saprophytic orchids, and are normally considered impossible to transplant or grow, but presumably a bulb had survived in the mountain soil originally used to fill the beds.

In 1962 there was only one potato orchid: Gastrodea sesamoides, but in 1991 this had been split into three species, differing only in trivial details, principally the vigour of the plant and the number of flowers. I mentioned my orchids to one of the botanists at the Herbarium, and he came out to look at them. The flower spikes varied considerably in size, and he admitted that if he had seen some of them by themselves he would have identified them as two different species.

In my opinion it is abundantly clear that in both these cases there is no justification whatever for the separation of the various species. I am fairly certain that no work has been done in either case to establish whether there are any breeding barriers, which might justify separate species.

* Wakefield, N.A., Ferns of Victoria and Tasmania. Field Naruralists Club of Victoria. 1955
 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019