The status of some reports of vascular plants from Michigan

TitleThe status of some reports of vascular plants from Michigan
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1967
AuthorsVoss EG
JournalMichigan Botanist

Some sort of detective work may arise in almost any line of endeavor, but it is especially frequent in study of the local flora. Fernald pointed out some years ago, in discussing the slow and exacting task of completing the 8th edition of Gray's Manual, the unsatisfactory nature of floras which are merely quick compilations of the work of others, without original synthesis and verification. In the present instance, the question is sometimes as simple as whether or not there is an authentic specimen, preserved in a herbarium somewhere, to support a published record of the occurrence of a species in the state. But sometimes, and even more demanding of "detective" work, the question is whether the data associated with such a specimen can be relied upon or have been correctly interpreted. The few "case histories" presented here are typical of the kinds of investigation which become necessary before one can even prepare a reasonably accurate list of the flora of the state -- and they may serve as a continued warning that statements of distribution in a manual (or even a monograph) must often be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Errors of both commission and omission are repeated over and over again as a result, presumably, of uncritical copying; this problem exists for distributional information as well as for descriptive statements about the plants themselves (not to mention bibliographic and nomenclatural details!). It is perhaps harder to lay ghosts to rest than to resurrect a few which are deserving, but the following examples may help to clarify the status of some species in our flora.