The Truth about the Blue Nivalids (P. longipetiolata)

Primula longipetiolata is considered a synonym of P. limbata by Halda and Richards, and a synonym of P. optata by the Flora of China (FoC). The holotype specimen resides at Universität Wien, Austria and consists of one plant, quite faded, but there is also a sheet at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh which consists of three leaves and a flower (not a whole plant). One of the leaves retains the color of the midrib and petiole, which is red in live plants. Telling are handwritten notes on both sheets from W.W. Smith, the Edinburgh one says "I have seen complete specimen - cotype in Herbarium Vienna. I do not match it with any other Nivalis form. Dr. Handel Mazzetti supports limbata - which will not do." and the Vienna one says "P. longipetiolata. I think this is sp. nov. It is not limbata, Balf.f. et Forrest." When Smith and Fletcher wrote about the Section Nivales in their monograph, Smith reluctantly placed P. longipetiolata under P. limbata but stated that "Dr Handel-Mazzetti regards it as too closely approaching P. limbata."

Primula longipetiolata. Long red petioles and farina thick around the under margin
The more current Chinese online version of the Flora of China has P. longipetiolata listed as distinct. In the discussion it is distinguished from P. limbata and P. optata by the leaf shape and longer petioles (also calyx lobes and number of whorls). Also mentioned in the discussion is P. tsiangiae, which is listed as a synonym though it was not mentioned in the published FoC and Richards lists as a synonym of P. limbata. This is a confusing species which was collected in fruit and initially compared with Primula orbicularis. It was found in the same area as P. longipetiolata, near Kangding (now Garze). It has leaves with an attenuate base merging into a long petiole which look different to those pictured above but which match the holotype. However, once we see P. longipetiolata in cultivation, it becomes apparent that this species produces both leaves shapes pictured - those with an attenuate base are produced early and those with an obtuse base are produced later and are more evident in the Fall. It is convenient then to lump P. tsiangiae into P. longipetiolata until there is evidence otherwise. There is no indication that either P. limbata or P. optata produce both leaf shapes.
Primula longipetiolata leaf shape variation
The type location for P. longipetiolata is the La-ni-ba, SW of She-to, Sichuan. I have researched the location of this pass and it is just 20kms away and on the same mountain range as the Zhedou pass (30° 4'27.11"N 101°48'15.00"E), where most of the the wild images in the Species Gallery were taken. Additional images were taken at Ji Chou Pass which is on the southern end of the same range, about 70kms away from the type location. The type location for P. limbata is 350kms to the SW of P. longipetiolata, on the Tibet-Yunnan border. The type location for P. optata is at Siku (Zhugqu) 500kms away from P. longipetiolata to the NE in Gansu.
Relative type locations
Zheduo Pass, habitat of Primula longipetiolata
Note that Smith refers to subsequent collections by Rock in Sichuan which he says confirms the opinion of Handel-Mazzetti to lump P. longipetiolata with P. limbata. These sheets are not online and so I have not taken them into account. I think P. longipetiolata stands on its own as a distinct species from the information that I have and have listed it separately on PW in the Species Gallery.

This post is one in a series about Chinese blue nivalids. See the introduction post.


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