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Orchid community agree name changes in Oncidium

A substantial rearrangement of generic boundaries in the widely cultivated Oncidium group of orchids has been agreed by the orchid community.

Oncidium fuscatum

The monumental Genera Orchidacearum series depends on extensive analyses of DNA sequence data to provide guidance about how to classify orchids in an appropriate manner. A recent paper in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society is a good example of the scale and impact of such studies.

The dataset collected included five DNA regions and 736 accessions (590 species) covering 98% of the genera ascribed to the subtribe Oncidiinae (Neotropical; 1600 species). The results demonstrated that Oncidium, the largest genus of the subtribe, was polyphyletic. This result was due to multiple parallel shifts in pollination to oil-collecting bees from other sorts of pollination systems. These species all mimic yellow-flowered members of the family Malpighiaceae and have a unique absorbance in the UV-green range.

As these results required substantial rearrangements of generic boundaries in this group of horticulturally significant taxa, the proposed changes were reviewed by the Royal Horticultural Society’s taxonomy subcommittee of the Orchid Committee. After taking submissions from people supporting and opposing these changes, the subcommittee voted to support the changes proposed in Genera Orchidacearum, and these are now taken up by the Royal Horticultural Society system, the World Checklist of Monocots (produced at RBG Kew and used in the RBG Kew living collections and other databases) and the American Orchid Society.

This is an example of how there is now a formal system of recognised taxonomy in many areas of science and horticulture.

Item from Prof. Mark Chase (Keeper of the Jodrell Laboratory, RBG Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 42

Article reference:

Neubig, K.M., Whitten, W.M., Williams, N.H., Blanco, M.A., Endara, L., Burleigh, J.G., Silvera, K., Cushman, J.C. & Chase, M.W. (2012 ). Generic recircumscriptions of Oncidiinae (Orchidaceae: Cymbidieae) based on maximum likelihood analysis of combined DNA datasets. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 168: 117-146.

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