May I recommend for the Friday afternoon/weekend reading: an article by Bletter, Reynertson, and Velazquez Runk in the journal Ethnobotany Research & Applications (vol. 5, 2007) on “The taxonomy, ecology, and ethnobotany of the Simulacraceae”, which has about 80 species divided in 17 genera, such as Plasticus, Textileria, and Papyroidia. Moreover,
This family is more than a botanical curiosity. It is a scientific conundrum, as the taxa:
- lack genetic material,
- appear virtually immortal and
- have the ability to form intergeneric crosses with ease, despite the lack of any evident mechanism for cross-fertilization.
In this study, conducted over approximately six years, we elucidate the first full description and review of this fascinating taxon, heretofore named Simulacraceae.
To summarize, also in the words of the authors,
The economics, distribution, ecology, taxonomy, paleoethnobotany, and phakochemistry of this widespread family are herein presented. We have recently made great strides in circumscribing this group, and collections indicate this cosmopolitan family has a varied ecology. … Despite being genomically challenged plants, an initial phylogeny is proposed. In an early attempt to determine the ecological relations of this family, a twenty-meter transect has been inventoried from a Plasticus rain forest in Nyack, New York, yielding 49 new species and the first species-area curve for this family.
The Simulacraceae collections—based on the principal method of “opportunistic sampling”—are deposited in the herbarium of the Foundation for Artificial Knowledge Education. Some of the open problems yet to investigate include simulacrapaleoethnobotany and simulacrapolitical ecology, and from an engineering perspective, the design of a Traditional Simulacraceae Knowledge/Teleological Simulation Knowledge base (dubbed acronym “TSK,TSK”, which would compete well with the yearly naming game for the NAR January database issue).
A short html version of the article is available online in the Jan/Feb issue of AIR, but also the full pdf file (about 6MB) in the Uni of Hawaii database with more information and colourful photos (openly accessible, of course). Enjoy!