John Lindley's Vallota ? miniata.

John Lindley offered the first description of what we now know as Clivia miniata. It was published in the Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette for 1854, on page 119.

Here is a transcription of the text, with a translation of the Latin diagnosis; and thereafter some comment:

New Plants.
V[allota]. tubo brevissimo, laciniis perianthii sepalinis angustioribus et paulò brevioribus, staminibus subdeclinatis. Vallota with the tube very short and the sepaline (outer whorl) laciniae (segments) of the perianth narrower and a little shorter, and with stamens somewhat bent downwards.
A beautiful greenhouse bulbous plant, with fleshy narrow pale green leaves, resembing those of Clivia (Imatophyllum), and the inflorescence of Vallota purpurea, from which it differs in the flowers being much smaller, of a clear delicate brilliant vermilion colour, passing into Indian yellow in their lower half, and in the tube not exceeding 4 lines in length. The sepaline divisions of the perianth are about one third narrower and slightly shorter than the others. The stamens are somewhat declinate, and nearly as long as the perianth, in which respect this differs from the previously known species of Vallota, as it also does in the want of a membrane connecting the segments for full half their length. The ovules are six, attached to the axis of each cell. These circumstances would perhaps justify the creation of a new genus ; but in the absence of information concerning the fruit, and considering moreover the great resemblance of the plant in habit to Vallota, it seems better to leave it for the present in that genus. Messrs. Lee received a Banksian Medal for a specimen of it exhibited on the 21st inst. to the Horticultural Society, and it richly deserved that mark of value. It was purchased some years ago from Messrs. Backhouse, of York, who are said to have received its bulbs from Caffraria.

Comment: It is quite clear from this that Lindley was comfortable in describing this plant as a new species. He did, however, have some doubt with regard to his generic placement of the species. It is for this reason that he decided to utilise the question mark in the name. It is still a perfectly valid protologue and resultant basionym for a species - ready for a generic transfer (which did happen later).

© 2011 Greig Russell.

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