Comments on Mr. David Leach's "Better than Expected"
Mary Greig, Royston B.C.
My husband and I found Mr. David Leach's article "Better than Expected" in the October, 1955, Bulletin most interesting. We have also felt that many good things were unaccountably passed by.
However, we feel that his flat statement that "the Species of Rhododendron and the Rhododendron Handbook contain many errors" is quite misleading to those who may not be familiar with both indispensable books.
The Species of Rhododendron was published in 1930, when new rhododendrons had been flooding in from all quarters at an overwhelming rate, and were still doing so. It was the result of much work, some of it begun earlier by Sir Isaac Bailey Balfour, by Mr. H. F. Tagg of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Mr. J. Hutchinson of the Royal Gardens, Kew, and Mr. Alfred Rehder of the Arnold Arboretum, and was edited by the late Mr. J. B. Stevenson. Much of the material must have been herbarium only, also that all that could be hoped for at that time was to bring the genus into some sort of workable frame.
The editor states in his Introduction: "...there are many problems in this record quite unsolved or but half solved. Aid us to solve them. The present book will have served its purpose if it affords some clue to the existing maze, and in that expectation it is issued."
The Rhododendron Handbook, published by the Royal Horticultural Society, the last of which was issued in 1952, is still incomplete though it has made alterations as they are indicated by published revisions. It seems likely that for some years to come there will be re-arrangements, modifications and so forth, and a new book as painstakingly and exhaustively planned as the Species is indeed much needed.
Mr. J. Hutchinson published an article "The Evolution and Classification of the Rhododendron" with a chart, in the Rhododendron Yearbook published by the R. H. S. in 1946. In 1950 Dr. J. K. Janaki Ammal and her co-workers gave chromosome numbers of the 368 species, involving 550 counts, the source of the plants, and where possible the collector's numbers. She also gave a further chart based on Mr. Hutchinson's showing the occurrence of diploids, tetraploids, etc. One presumes that this information opens another window on the development of the genus. Up to this time, besides a second edition of the "Species of Rhododendron" which included some 30 additional species discovered or described since 1930, there has been a series of revisions of series and alliances by Dr. J. M. Cowan and Mr. H. H. Davidian, B.Sc., in the R. H. S. Rhododendron Yearbook, as follows:
- The boothii and glaucum series and the Lepidotum alliance 1948.
- The campanulatum and fulvum series 1949.
- The thomsonii series and a review of R. repens 1951-52.
In the Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh Vol. XX, No. 97, Feb. 1940, Dr. Cowan revises the sanguineum alliance. Probably there are other published revisions, but these we know. They do prove some previous conclusions to have been incorrect in the light of later knowledge, and no doubt will in their turn be disproved. The original conclusions are therefore errors, but very different ones from the careless mistakes and bad proof-reading which might be suspected from Mr. Leach's remark.