Journal Number 93
November 2005


Corybas Variations
By Ian St George

Your editor has been taken severely to task by one member for publishing too much stuff on foreign orchids in the NZ Native Orchid Journal. Of course I make no apology for that: their inclusion was hardly an accident. It is only by seeing what others are doing that our own horizons are extended, only by cross-fertilisation that the possibility of new ideas and concepts is enhanced, only by tempering our own extremes in the fire of embarrassing comparison that we become objective. Its an educative process really as much for me as for anyone. As the great Swiss educationalist Jean Piaget once said, "The aim of education is to create people capable of doing new things".

I told my critic, "It is not the journal of NZ native orchids, but the NZ journal of native orchids, so any country's native orchids are fair subjects - but he was unmoved by such semantic cleverness.

I mentioned these discussions to another erudite member, who suggested that some time I should write a piece explaining why I included certain pieces sometimes.

Well, OK: take David Lang on the Bee orchid and the Early marsh-orchid. What those papers illustrated is how differently colour and shape variations within a species are dealt with in Britain - they are called varieties of the species, or colour forms or peloric forms. They are not seen as new taxa. Isn't there a lesson there for those who see white Corybas as different? for those who see Petalochilus as separate from Caladenia? Shouldn't the knowledge of what others are doing give us pause?

Or take Marilyn Light's paper on 20-year observations of a single colony of Epipactis helleborine in Canada. Wasn't it interesting to understand how a European orchid might reach North America? Didn't that make you think about Australian and Malaysian orchids reaching New Zealand? And isn't 20 years of detailed recorded observations of the same colony amazing? has anyone here done that? should we? whether or not we should we surely deserve a chance to read about it.

David McConachie follows the Australian native orchid literature carefully, and he sends pieces he finds of interest for "Australian Notes". Fascinating aren't they? So similar to our orchids, that Brian Molloy once called New Zealand a botanical colony of Australia.

Why "Other islands' orchids?" to demonstrate that the high levels of endemism we find here in our orchids is a common feature of insular flora.

Next take a look at the Historical reprint in this issue. It was written as long ago as 1985, and it discusses the authors' difficulties in sorting out what is and is not important in differentiating taxa in Malaysian Corybas.

Then after that if you tell me their experience is of no value in the current New Zealand scramble to find a new Corybas on every "high ridge and peak", I'll make a rude rejoinder.

But I'll learn from you, too, and I'll be the wiser for our argument.

Reflect, if you will, on what an impoverished thing this journal would be if left entirely to those few NZ writers who do contribute.

If we can learn anything in isolation, think how much more we can learn if we are open to others' ideas. We live on an island but we don't have to be insular.

Unconvinced? siding with my critic? want a journal confined to NZ natives?

Pssstt!! Listen, I'll tell you how to improve matters: make it unnecessary for me to hunt out material on other than New Zealand native orchids by writing for your journal. Fill it with your observations, your drawings, your field trip notes, your ideas, your questions, your photos and plants for identification. Don't worry if your writing isn't great, I can fix it: that's what an editor is really for.




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