The real Primula involucrata (P. boveana)

In a previous post, I talked about why the species called Primula involucrata by many people should actually be called Primula munroi. This is due in part because the names in Wallich’s catalogue are considered “nomina nuda” (therefore invalid), and in part because Sweet used the name P. involucrata for a different species between the time of Wallich’s catalogue (1828) and the time the name P. involucrata was properly published for the Wallich species (1844).

The Sweet publication is "Hortus Britannicus: Or a Catalogue of Plants Cultivated in the Gardens of Great Britain (1839),
page 562" which is shown below. The abbreviations used are listed at the beginning of the publication.

The Sweet species is described as being “ye” (yellow flowered), involucred, from Egypt, “1826” (year introduced into cultivation), “3.4.” (flowering from the third to the fourth month of the year), “F” (requires a frame, not quite hardy), “symbol” (herbaceous perennial), and figured in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, t. 2842. The abbreviation “L.O.” is given as the source for the information and this refers to “Link et. Otto, Abbildungen und Beschreibungen seltener Pflanzen im Berl. Garten. Berlin 1828 t. 51”.
The synonym given is “verticillata B.M. non Vahl. nec Forsk.” This reads as P. verticillata in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (t. 2842 (1828)), which is not the P. verticillata described by Martino Vahl (in Symbol. Bot., I, 15 t. 5 1790) and not the P. verticillata described (considered the original description) by Pehr Forsskål (in Fl. Aegypt.-Arab. 42. 1775), so essentially a species previously lumped under the name P. verticillata is being split out as a new species called P. involucrata.

The discussion of the plant figured in Bot. Mag. T. 2842 talks about a plant received in 1825 from Otto of Berlin as P. involucrata marked “AEgypt” but it “suffered so much on the way that it could not be preserved”. The plant figured was grown in Edinburgh from seed obtained from Berlin and it was then compared with P. verticillata of Forsskål (from Arabia Felix which is present day Yemen) and Vahl, from which it was concluded it didn’t differ significantly.

The description given in the Link & Otto reference says the seeds came from Ehrenberg (which would be Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg, a professor at Berlin University, who travelled with Wilhelm Hemprich to the Middle East including Egypt in 1820-1825). The collection location was Mount Catherine, close to Mount Sinai.

Pam Eveleigh on Mount Catherine in 1992
There is only one Primula which grows on Mount Catherine and the immediate area and that is an endemic called Primula boveana. The original description for P. boveana is Decne. ex Duby in DC, Prodr. 8:35 (1844), and the description references "P. involucrata Sweet cat. p. 562,non Wall., P. verticillata Bot. Mag. t. 2842, Link & Otto abb. t. 51, non Forsk".

However the Sweet catalogue was published in 1839 which gives the name P. involucrata priority over the Decne. name of P. boveana published in 1844. 

At the time of the publication of the name P. boveana in 1844, the names in the Wallich catalogue would have been considered valid and so the name P. involucrata Sweet would have been invalid because the name was already taken by Wallich, thus allowing a new name of P. boveana to be created for that species.

At the time of the writing of this post, the IPNI website was not current for this information. (later note: INPI has now been updated).

Additional reading about P. involucrata (as P. boveana):

1. Smith & Fletcher, “
The Genus Primula: Sections Cuneifolia, Floribundae, Parryi, and Auricula”, Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinb. 61:631-686. (1949). Smith and Fletcher considered boveana and simensis as subspecies of P. verticillata, based on limited material.

2. Richards & Eveleigh, “Four name changes in Primula”, in Alpine Diary, The Alpine Gardener, Vol. 80, No. 2, June 2012.

3. Mansour, et. al., “
Development of 13 Microsatellite Markers in the Endangered Sinai Primrose (Primula boveana, Primulaceae)”, Applications in Plant Sciences 2013 1(6):1200515

4. Jiménez, et. al., “
Low genetic diversity and high levels of inbreeding in the Sinai primrose (Primula boveana), a species on the brink of extinction”, Plant Systematics and Evolution , May 2014, Volume 300, Issue 5, pp 1199-1208.

5. Omar, “
Assessing the Conservation Status of the Sinai Primrose (Primula boveana)“, Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 21 (7): 1027-1036, 2014.

6. Omar & Elgamal, “
Reproductive and Germination Ecology of Sinai Primrose, Primula boveana Decne. ex Duby”, Journal of Global Biosciences , Vol. 3(4), 2014, pp. 694-707.


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