Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - but just for today!

As mentioned a few days back, members of the lily family, or members belonging to the diverse lineages that used to constitute the lily family, contribute a great deal to the color in our summer gardens. So here's a rather spectacular daylily from Mrs. Phactor's collection; the flower is easily 20 cm across. Unfortunately these gaudy giant flowers only last one day, thus the name.
Now the Phactor knows what you're thinking, "If a daylily is no longer in the lily family, what is it classified as?" The genus Hemerocallis in in the Xanthorrhoeaceae (zan-thor-ree-aye-see-ee), which isn't even in the Liliales but the Asparagales. So in addition to the Liliaceae, genera that all used to be dumped into this family or very closely related families like the Amaryllidaceae (Did you learn that the difference was an inferior ovary vs. a superior ovary?) there are now 13 more families here in alphabetical order, unless one got missed: Agavaceae, Alliaceae, Asparagaceae, Asphodelaceae, Hyacinthaceae, Melanthiaceae, Nartheciaceae, Ruscaceae, Smilacaceae , Tecophilaeaceae, Themidaceae, Tofieldiaceae, and Uvulariaceae. Wow! It used to be so much simpler and so much more incorrect! Some people ask, “Why bother, the old classification worked fine.” Well, that’s only true if all you needed was a classification that was nothing more than a card catalog for filing all these genera. However, modern plant taxonomy sees classifications as phylogenetic hypotheses, so groupings hypothesize a common ancestry for that particular lineage, and as is clear, although no so the relationships among all these lineages for which you need a diagram, the “lily lineage” represents a great deal of evolutionary diversity. If all this is just too much, the flower is just as pretty.

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