Chris is the ABS species list editor.
The first part is an answer to the queston of where to find more information on bamboo identification.
The second part relates to what species should be on the ABS species list.
Improving information on bamboos cultivated in the US
People always assume that information is out there to be tapped into. Research is often misunderstood as looking things up in books, or now a Google search or two. In the 21st century we assume that our fine institutions have already done fundamental research, and that is what plant identification and naming is, a subject fundamental to all other knowledge on plants. However, because bamboos are mainly distributed in underdeveloped, often physically inaccessible and also often geopolitically sensitive areas, they have not been studied adequately by field botanists. Bamboos are also unfortunate enough to be grasses, and the identification of grasses has always centred around their flowers, which were largely unavailable for bamboos. So to this day bamboos remain relatively under-studied and the information on them is still limited and fragmentary.
Substantial information on identification is out there, albeit often in a rather poorly developed state. Here are some more recent studies on Asian bamboos, which still constitute the bulk of our cultivated bamboos, most S American bamboos having limited hardiness and being less amenable to cultivation:
? Bamboos of Malaysia, author K.M Wong, 1995, now working on other plants
? many new descriptions of Indonesian species published in a special edition of Bogor' s journal Reinwardtia, author Elizabeth Widjaja, 1997, now busy administratively
? Bamboos of Sabah 1992, and many papers on bamboos of Madagascar, by Soejatmi Dransfield, not now intending to do any more fieldwork
? Index to Japanese Bambusaceae, 1978, author Suzuki, dead?
? all the miscellaneous Chinese literature, mainly from the 1980?s, most authors dead or octogenarians,
? the Chinese coffee table books in English, such s\ the Compendium of Chinese Bamboos, not very comprehensive and often rather out of date
? The Chinese language flora of China bamboo account, Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae 9(1), completed around 1991, published 1997, for its drawings, unless you speak Chinese
? T. P. Yi's Bamboos of Sichuan, 1997, also in Chinese, but with better drawings
? Bamboos of Nepal & Bhutan and the 3 papers from which their taxonomy was drawn, all 1994
? PROSEA 7. Bamboos, 1995, S E Asian tropical bamboos, edited by Dransfield & Widjaja
? Compendium of Tree Species, by CABI, 2000, for a slightly wider range of Asian bamboos, on an expensive CDRom
Some of this could possibly be put on-line in pdf format with the author's permission, though certainly not the Prosea or CABI Compendium. How appropriate it would be to bamboos cultivated in the US is another matter..
As so many cultivated bamboos are from China, a milestone has been reached with the production of the English-language version of their national bamboo bible in Chinese, itself the result of work by more than 25 Chinese taxonomists. The English language Flora of China (FOC) account, as well as being translated into English for the first time, has also been updated by a further, younger group of Chinese taxonomists, some new to bamboos, some more experienced. It has also been edited in the west to take into account bamboos from surrounding countries and the opinions of several western taxonomists. It is recognised as a first approximation, needing refinement, and it is still a victim of a major gulf in Chinese bamboo taxonomists in the 1980s, so the genera are still a little unsatisfactory. To simplify greatly, that was essentially a disagreement between those who thought that flowers were more important, and who published in Bamboo Research, using fewer, larger genera, and those who placed more emphasis on vegetative characters, and wrote in the Journal of Bamboo Research, using more, smaller genera. In the English language version, the descriptions are strictly from material growing in China, as interpreted by the particular Chinese author, and plants growing in the west can often differ substantially, and may in several instances be completely different species. If we were to look up Fargesia dracocephala from China in the FOC account, we would have difficulty recognising it as ?our Fargesia dracocephala?.
Thus the available information is getting better, but the work has only just begun to make it appropriate for identification in the US. This brings me on to the account I have been working on from time to time over the past few years, which was started for the Flora of N America (FNA) and the Grass Manual at Utah State University. This is a compilation of descriptions for the main species in cultivation in the US & Europe, around 100 species initially, steadily being refined to reflect the actual detailed characteristics of the bamboos in cultivation, and progressively sorting out problems with misapplied names.
The bamboos to be covered were selected from the most widely available Source List entries, with some less widely available species added to improve the breadth of genera covered, and a sprinkling of species likely to be more popular in the future. This certainly will be the most appropriate reference work for the US bamboos, but still only a reference work. This is now stalled, mainly because of time-limited funding for the FNA, but also because of difficulties in illustrating it in the manner required for FNA---strictly high class traditional black & white botanical drawings. At the current time it has been compiled from available descriptions and updated, partially improved and it is starting to represent a functional account, now covering some 75 species. It needs further funding to refine it, test it, and expand it further. Funding somewhere in the order of $20,000 over a few years is required, allowing travel in the US & Europe, before this work can be considered reliable.
However, for most people a full botanical description is probably not much more use in English than in Chinese. The descriptions still need to be simplified into a format somehow more like my guides Bamboos of Nepal & Bamboos of Bhutan, with annotated illustrations, but more identification details as there are more species to distinguish between, and to illustrate it we now have to use colour photos, and the whole work should be internet-friendly.
Producing all this information has required in-depth background botanical research into bamboo classification systems including molecular studies such as using DNA to try to group the species into genera, morphology to improve identification, the nomenclaturally correct names to apply to species, synonymy etc etc Much more of this kind of work still has to be done, but funding gets harder and harder to find in a subject without much value in enhancing perceived homeland security. Nevertheless Lynn Clark has successfully obtained funding for an ambitious international project, but it aims to look at quite deep relationships between bamboos from different parts of the world, rather than the lower level of genera and species identification. The gulf between the kind of academic work that leads to permanent positions and job security, and the kind of work that gives practical, usable results, grows ever wider. It has probably become impossible for one person to span in a single life.
More basic plant identification work is well suited to botanical institutes such as our botanic gardens. However, those that specialise in grasses such as the Smithsonian & Kew have to concentrate resources on ?real grasses?, which is where their core funding always goes. They may dabble in bamboos and give short-term positions for bamboo studies, but when push comes to shove the bamboos get shoved right out, and a bamboo specialist always seems to have to wander off, cap in hand again, the story of my life. Missouri Botanical Garden was very generous in supporting the work on Chinese bamboos for 5 years, ever since Kew stopped asking their private donors to come up with funding for bamboos in 2000, (before them it was Edinburgh Botanic gardens and before them Plant Sciences at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and before them the Overseas Development Administration while I was in Nepal & Bhutan).
In an ideal world there would be more international sources of funding for this kind of work. Currently any international funding is the realm of INBAR. Although they had a biodiversity and conservation program, run for them by IPGRI, they concentrated on the ?Priority Species?, less than 1% of total biodiversity. Ian Hunter started to move things in the right direction, funding a project to assess global resources of all species, but it would appear that plant identification is never going to be one of the priorities of INBAR, and certainly not of IPGRI, and note that their Deputy Director is now moving into INBAR to replace Ian Hunter.
Moving on to the source list:
I feel the species source list should remain restricted to currently available and reasonably well documented bamboos. This is because the key to any data is the index, and for bamboo information the index is the name. The name only becomes stable when the bamboo is better known, then even if it is incorrect at least is can be consistently incorrect across a range of growers. When different people use different names and the they chop and change it is a nightmare, and it is always the newest, rarest bamboos that show greatest variability in names applied, as different people identify them differently. Remember that when a name in the Source List changes, it upsets everyone and moreover, takes a great deal of work to research, justify and apply. Best to get the name right first, which means being more patient.
There is no doubt in my mind that different levels of information are required however. The source list alone is not sufficient, although maybe we can expand it slightly, but we don?t want to increase the cost. On the one hand we need more detailed information on the the well-known bamboos. We will have to consider how best to implement that, and linking elsewhere may be the answer. We also need a source of information on the newer introductions with the much less reliable information that is available on them. I feel growers' own websites are the best primary location for the latter. Take a look at the Kimmei & Bamboo Garden websites. New bamboos often come in through growers such as them, as they actively hunt it out, and they can list it quickly, without anyone expecting them to be too authoritative. I feel they need to be encouraged to do this more, and to provide more information, more plant details (hopefully in English!) and of course photos. There is no reason why the Source List shouldn't refer to imperfectly known bamboos and where information on them is available, but definitely from a section that is distinct from the main tables, called Page 411 maybe?
Cross-referencing between the different levels of information is then required, and is much easier on the website. Links from the Source List should eventually go directly to species in floras for the well-documented species and also to the pictures in bambooweb.info. Links from page 411 to nursery sites may also be possible. Who knows what widgets & gadgets will do for us in the future. If the suppliers know that the Source List will refer readers directly to their websites, then they may be more inclined to give better information to attract visitors.
It hopefully will before too long be simple to link to more detailed authoritative reference information, and the main resource here will probably be on-line floras. Indigestible as they may be, they will be the ultimate reference. The initial draft of the English Language Flora of China bamboo account is on-line but I certainly wouldn't recommend linking to that at the present time. However, it is instructive to see how far we have come from De-Zhu Li's original draft of 1999, which is at.
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/mss/ ... edited.htm
The finished version will be on-line some time, maybe next year, at http://www.efloras.org/flora_page.aspx?flora_id=2
Flora of North America will also be on-line but it looks as though the bamboos won't now be included. http://hua.huh.harvard.edu/FNA/
However, the FNA bamboo account was intended to also be included in the more useful Grass Manual on-line format at USU, with photos, maps etc http://herbarium.usu.edu/webmanual/default.htm
The bamboos can hopefully be added to that at any time independent of the FNA. Or the material could be on the ABS website or at bambooweb.info when that is developed further. Interactive identification programs are now available, though the nature of bamboo identification features might make them difficult to develop and use. At the end of the day, it has to be admitted that good photos at least confirm the identification, which is why I'm steadily bulding up a database of macro photos of the key characters for each species as and when it is possible to get the right characters at the right time of development under good lighting.
The improvement of the bamboo information for cultivated bamboos needs better funding in order to come to fruition, despite the sterling efforts of Mary Barkworth of USU to get it up and running. She has had great problems with inadequate funding tied to unrealistic deadlines.
Incidentally, remember that plants coming into cultivation are often the stimulus for basic botanical research back in their native countries, which then firms up identification and often brings back even more species. Bamboos are no exception and it is very sobering to think that the majority of bamboos coming out of China can't be identified adequately, even using the latest Flora of China account, see Kimmei's catalogue pages for Fargesia for example, http://www.kimmei.com
Even where species are identified the names are very speculative and they get listed under different generic names.
An organisation such as the evolving and strengthening ABS is important here. Links between horticulture, growers, and various institutions in the west are all important as well as links between the west and less developed countries, such as those established by Karl Bareis and friends in Kunming. Improving the quality and flow of information on bamboo identification is a high priority, but a very big challenge.
Hope you have a good meeting in Houston.