BEN # 149

Adolf Ceska aceska at CUE.BC.CA
Fri Nov 8 11:27:32 EST 1996

BBBBB    EEEEEE   NN   N             ISSN 1188-603X
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No. 149                              November 8, 1996

aceska at        Victoria, B.C.
 Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

From: Rene Vaillancourt <R.Vaillancourt at>

   [Several  people forwarded me a Reuter article "Australian
   Shrub Could be Oldest Life" and asked me  to  post  it  on
   BEN.  I  found  that this newspaper article was based on a
   presentation given by Dr. Rene Vaillancourt et al.  (1996)
   at  the  Proteaceae Symposium in Melbourne, Australia. Dr.
   Vaillancourt kindly sent me the following note for posting
   on BEN. - AC]

A team of scientist working at  the  Plant  Science  Department,
University  of  Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife Service, Depart-
ment of Environment and Land Management, Tasmania (Jasmyn Lynch,
Jayne Balmer, Dr. Greg Jordan, Dr. Jocelyne Cambecedes,  Richard
Barnes,  and  Dr.  Rene Vaillancourt) have discovered the oldest
living plant individual known to date.

Lomatia tasmanica (common name King's Holly), which is a  member
of  the Proteaceae family, is known by only one population which
is located in the World Heritage area of  South  west  Tasmania,
Australia. It grows along creek gullies in remnant rain-forest.

An  isozyme analysis found that it possessed zero genetic diver-
sity (all living plants of the species are exactly the same). On
the other hand, a closely related  species  (Lomatia  tinctoria)
which also propagates vegetatively had a normal level of genetic
diversity. Chromosome counts revealed that Lomatia tasmanica had
a  triploid  chromosome  number and this genetic information ex-
plains the observations that L. tasmanica appears to be  sterile
(it  flowers  but  never  forms mature fruits), and shows little
morphological variability. This evidence strongly suggests  that
the  entire  species  is  a single clone that propagates vegeta-

The L. tasmanica clone (spanning 1.2 km) is the  second  longest
in  the  world  after  the  box-huckleberry  clone  (Gaylussacia
brachycera) in North America (Pennsylvania) which is reported to
be 2 km in length. A clone  of  this  size  must  be  very  old.
Indeed,  under  the cold climate of South-west Tasmania, vegeta-
tive propagation is likely to be very slow.

Fortunately, fossil  leaf  fragments,  identical  to  living  L.
tasmanica  were  found  in a fossil deposit 8.5 km of the extant
population. These permit a  more  precise  age  estimate.  These
fossils  have  a  14C  age  of 43,600 years. The oldest reported
plant clone is the box-huckleberry  which  was  aged  at  13,000
years  (Wherry 1972). The oldest living tree is believed to be a
bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata)  in  Arizona  which  has  been
dated  using  dendrochronology at 4,700 years. Lomatia tasmanica
appears to be the oldest living plant individual known to date.

A manuscript that details all the analysis has been submitted to
the Australian Journal of Botany.

Literature cited and further reading:

Cook, R. E. (1983). Clonal plant populations. American Scientist
   71, 244-253.
Vaillancourt, R.E., G. Jordan, J. Cambacedes and A. J. J. Lynch.
   1996. Is Lomatia tasmanica a 43,000 year old clone? Presented
   at the  Royal  Botanical  Gardens  Commemorative  Conference,
   Proteaceae Symposium, Sept. 29-Oct. 5. Melbourne, Vic.
Wherry,  E.  T.  (1972).  Box-huckleberry  as  the oldest living
   protoplasm. Castanea 37, 94-95.

From: Sylvia Duran Sharnoff <sylvia at> on
         lichens-l at

Many people have been having trouble getting  through  to  Colin
Eades'  fax number at the Canadian Museum of Nature. There seems
to have been something wrong with the phone line. As  of  today,
Tuesday, Nov. 5, there is a working number:

                (613) 364-4022

Irwin  Brodo's meeting with Colin Eades has been postponed until
Nov. 18, so there is more time to get messages to Eades.  Please
keep more coming!


Coe,  Sophie  D.  &  Michael  D.  Coe. 1996. THE TRUE HISTORY OF
   CHOCOLATE. Thames & Hudson, Inc., New York. 280  p.  ISBN  0-
   500-01693-3 [hard cover] Price US$27.50
   Dr.   Sophie  Dobzhansky  Coe  (daughter  of  the  well-known
   geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky) started  to  work  on  this
   history  of chocolate and cacao in about 1988, spent numerous
   hours in various libraries, and collected a lot  of  original
   material.  After her death of cancer in May 1994, her husband
   Prof.  Michael  Coe,  an   anthropologist   specializing   in
   Mesoamerican  research, finished the book and prepared it for
   publication. Following a thread of Cacao Tree through history
   you will learn about Maya and Aztec culture, go  through  the
   Spanish  conquest  of Central America, and explore the choco-
   late conquest of Europe. This book is a  work  of  love,  not
   only  the  love  of chocolate, but primarily the love of his-
   tory, life, and of a deceased spouse. Even if you don't  like
   chocolate, this book is a feast. I could not find any mention
   of  Carob, although the authors listed other substances (such
   as ground bricks) as cacao substitutes. Address of  the  pub-
   lisher:  Thames  and  Hudson,  500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

   British  Columbia  Museum  Handbook.  University  of  British
   Columbia Press & Royal B.C. Museum, Vancouver - Victoria. 374
   p. ISBN 0-7748-0564-1 [soft cover] Price CND $24.95
   This  book  deals  with about 300 species of trees and shrubs
   both native  and  escaped  from  cultivation  that  occur  in
   British  Columbia.  All  the  species  are  illustrated  with
   author's own excellent line drawings of  branches  (or  whole
   plants)  with  leaves,  flowers  and  fruits. Important iden-
   tification characters are also  illustrated  in  detail,  and
   this,  together  with  good (indented) keys helps to reliably
   identify the plants. There are 76 plates of  plants  together
   with 3 plates explaining morphological terms. The arrangement
   of  plants  on  plates, however, dictated the order of genera
   within families and  the  order  of  species  within  genera.
   Descriptions  of  closely  related  species  are sometime far
   apart, if their illustrations fell to  two  different  plates
   (e.g.,  Vaccinium  ovalifolium  and  V. alaskaense). Once you
   know this, you can get through the book faster, but  it  took
   me  a while before I understood the strange sequence (neither
   alphabetic,  nor  phylogenetic).  You  can  order  the   book
   directly  from  the UBC Press (phone 604-822-3259, Fax 1-800-
   668-0821, e-mail orders at, and of  course,  in
   Victoria, you can get it from the Royal B.C. Museum gift shop
   or from The Field-Naturalist.

Cannings,  R.  &  S. Cannings. 1996. BRITISH COLUMBIA: A NATURAL
   HISTORY. Graystone Books, Vancouver. 310 p. ISBN 1-55054-497-
   7 [hard cover] Price CND$45.00
   Some time ago I admired a book on natural history of  Alberta
   and I wished British Columbia would have a similar treatment.
   Richard  and  Syd  Cannings  came with this fine summary. The
   first chapters deal with geology,  oceanography,  glaciation,
   and  post-glacial  history  of  the Province, and establish a
   framework for description of its  major  ecological  regions.
   The  book  is  richly  illustrated with great photographs and
   line drawings, the text is well balanced (you will recognize,
   but forget that the Cannings brothers  are  zoologists!)  and
   the   general  text  is  accompanied  with  numerous  "boxes"
   describing  and  illustrating  various  interesting   special
   aspects  of  our  natural  history. Address of the publisher:
   Graystone Books, Division of Douglas &  McIntyre  Ltd.,  1615
   Venables Street, Vancouver, B.C. V5L 2H1

   THE AMAZON RAIN FOREST. Simon & Schuster, New  York.  537  p.
   ISBN 0-684-80886-2 [hard cover] Price US$27.50

   This  book is a fascinating account of ethnobotanical studies
   done in South America by Prof. Richard E.  Schultes  and  his
   students  (namely  the  late  Tim Plowman). ONLY IN VICTORIA:
   Wade Davis will talk here on  November  25,  in  the  Crystal
   Garden  at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($5.00 or no charge if you buy a
   book) in the Munro Books and possibly some other bookstores.

Adams, Scott. 1996. THE DILBERT  PRINCIPLE.  HarperCollins  Pub-
   lishers,  Inc.  New  York.  336  p.  ISBN 0-88730-787-6 [hard
   cover] Price $20.00

   Scott Adams is the creator of "Dilbert" -  a  cartoon  serial
   that  is  syndicated  in  many  North American newspapers and
   highly valued for its true reflections of corporate  America.
   Compared  with  the Parkinson's Law or Peter Principle, Adams
   does not try to find how the corporations and similar systems
   work;  he  is  a  passive  observer  of   modern   management
   processes,  such  as downsizing, rightsizing, flattening, and
   creating quality teams. He does not analyze their  functions,
   but  only  shows  the reader what is the accepted norm in the
   modern  management  (or  managerial?)  practices.  It's   not
   without  interest that shortly after the publication of "Dil-
   bert Principle" the Government of British  Columbia  launched
   its  Blitz  reorganization in order to get even closer to the
   norms described in the book.

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