History and Current Status of Systematic Research with Araceae

Copyright © 2000 by Thomas B. Croat
Missouri Botanical Garden
P. O. Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166

This is the second edition of an article that first appeared in Aroideana, Volume 21, 1998. This document is also available as a PDF file here. Adobe Acrobat Reader™, a free software, is required to view this PDF file.

1920 to 1950: A Dearth of Araceae Research

Only a few of the earlier above mentioned non-specialists and flora writers did specialized research with Araceae during the three decades following the completion of Engler's treatment of the family in Das Pflanzenreich (Engler, 1905a, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1920a-c). A few floristic projects in the neotropics were pursued, such as the Araceae treatment for the Flora of Peru (Macbride, 1936) and various floristic projects by Paul Standley in Central America. Perhaps the lack of monographic research was due to the disruption caused by two World Wars and a major worldwide depression, or to the mistaken belief that the Das Pflanzenreich treatment was a complete revision of all the species that existed. However, there are exceptions to this ebb in specialized research activity during the 1920s through the 1940s. For example, there was research with leaf architecture by the German botanist P. Ottmar Ertl (1932). This work detailed petiolar anatomy, blade shape, and included an analysis of venation in many different genera of Araceae. Other general publications dealt with chromosomes in Anthurium by Lulu O. Gaiser (Gaiser, 1927, 1930) and other miscellaneous genera (Jussen, 1928; Ito, 1942).

The French botanist, Samuel Buchet, published several papers dealing with the systematics of the Araceae between 1920 and 1939 (Buchet, 1939a, 1939b, 1942; Buchet & Guillaumin, 1939). He published new plant species descriptions from Asia and especially from Madagascar. Another Frenchman, H. Jumelle, also worked on the plants of Madagascar (Jumelle, 1919, 1928). Still another French botanist, A. Chevalier, published a few papers on Araceae during the same era. These dealt with aquarium plants, Cryptocoryne (Chevalier, 1934a, 1934b), and Cercestis in West Africa (Chevalier, 1920). In the late 1940s and early 1950s the Indian botanist, D. Chatterjee, published new species of Arisaema from Burma, India, and Sikkim (Chatterjee, 1949, 1955).


Although botany languished to some extent in other parts of the world due to the influence of World War II, there was a renewed interest in research in the Western Hemisphere after the war. The first signs of renewed research activity was with the Araceae in Mexico. Eizi Matuda, a native of Nagasaki, Japan but a naturalized Mexican citizen since 1928 (arriving in 1922), worked extensively on Araceae in the 1950s. Matuda was a field man and traveled into remote areas by mule, thus acquiring an excellent knowledge of much of tropical Mexico. His descriptions, though relatively detailed, do not compare with those of Sodiro. Matuda's first papers published a new species of Dracontium (Matuda, 1949) as well as one of Monstera and Philodendron (Matuda, 1949a). These were followed by floristic accounts of particular regions including Mount Ovando (Matuda, 1950a), the districts of Soconusco and Mariscal (Matuda, 1950b), and the state of Mexico (Matuda, 1957a). Miscellaneous new Mexican species were described in nearly all Mexican genera of Araceae throughout his career (Matuda, 1950c, 1950d, 1951, 1952, 1956a, 1956b, 1957b, 1959a, 1959b, 1961a, 1961b, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975). In all, Matuda described more than 50 species of Araceae, all from Mexico. His most useful work is a treatment of the Araceae of Mexico which includes both dichotomous keys and descriptions (Matuda, 1954).

Floristic Work in South America

During the time that Matuda was collecting and describing plants in Mexico, Richard Evans Schultes, a non-aroid specialist, was collecting and describing new species in conjunction with his ethnobotanical studies in South America, especially Amazonian Colombia. His ethnobotanical findings are summarized in a book (Schultes & Raffauf, 1990). In all, Schultes described about 20 species. Many of these remain accepted names (Schultes, 1953, 1954, 1958, 1959, 1963, 1964a, 1964b; Schultes et al., 1978, 1994).

At about the same time, Basset Maguire from the New York Botanical Garden discovered new species during his expeditions to the Guayana Highlands (Maguire, 1948). Among those participating in his expeditions were George Bunting and Julian Steyermark. Some of the new species were named independently by Steyermark or Bunting but some were also described by Alex D. Hawkes, a Californian. Though some of the species that Hawkes described proved to be new, he frequently placed species in the wrong genus. Though Hawkes described species in several papers (Hawkes, 1948, 1951a, 1951b) he was not really considered an expert on aroids.

Research with Araceae also was renewed in South America during the 1950s with the Flora of Suriname project. This work was carried out during the 1950s and mid-1960s by A. M. E. Jonker-Verhoef and her husband F. P. Jonker. The first paper in the series (Jonker-Verhoef & Jonker, 1953a) updated Pulle's 1906 "Enumeration of the Vascular Plants of Surinam" and described two new species. Later in the same year, a new treatment of the Araceae of Suriname (Jonker-Verhoef & Jonker, 1953b) was published treating 18 genera and 67 species. As a sign that most tropical floras started toward the middle of the present century were begun prematurely, a paper published only six years later added another thirteen species new to the flora (Jonker-Verhoef & Jonker, 1959) and yet most others (Jonker-Verhoef & Jonker, 1966, 1968) report an additional 7 species. The work done by the Jonkers was thorough and detailed but their interest with the Araceae did not extend beyond Suriname.

Floristic Work in Central America

Paul C. Standley was more of an aroid specialist since he did Araceae treatments for a half dozen separate Central American flora or florulas that described new Araceae during the decades of the 1930s and 1940s. These floras were for the Panama Canal Zone (Standley, 1928), Lancetilla Valley in Honduras (Standley, 1931), Barro Colorado Island (Standley, 1927, 1933), Belize (Standley & Record, 1936), Costa Rica (Standley, 1937), Panama (Standley, 1944), and Guatemala (Standley & Steyermark, 1958). In addition, he published several other smaller papers with new species descriptions (Standley, 1932, 1940a, 1940b, 1944, 1958b; Standley & Steyermark, 1943; Standley & L. O. Williams, 1951; 1952). Still, considering how many potential new species there were in Central America, Standley and his coworkers did not describe very many. In all, Standley alone or with Julian Steyermark and/or Louis O. Williams described 42 species of Araceae during this era.


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