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A Review: Bromeliaceae--Flora Fanerogamica do Estado de Sao Paulo.

Recently, volume 5 of Flora Fanerogamica do Estado de Sao Paulo was published (Melhem, Wanderley et al. 2007). This contribution to the flora of Sao Paulo state, Brazil covers an interesting group of 12 flowering plant families, one monocot (Bromeliaceae) and eleven dicots (Araliaceae, Basellaceae, Bombacaceae, Cactaceae, Ebenaceae, Flacourtiaceae, Menispermaceae, Phytolaccaceae, Podostemaceae, Quiinaceae, Rubiaceae). This review concerns only the Bromeliaceae treatment coordinated by Wanderley & Martins (Wanderley and Martins 2007).

Based on approximately 2700 herbarium specimens (exicata) 16 authors (Table 1) recognize 149 species in 18 genera, and four undescribed species (1 Aechmea, 3 Vriesea) of bromeliads from Sao Paulo state, Brazil. In general, the structure and information within this floristic treatment of Bromeliaceae adheres to normal conventions for this type of work. In addition to a general technical description for the family there is a key to genera, a brief description for each genus, and species-level keys where appropriate. For each species there are descriptions, brief notes on distribution, a list of selected material examined, and commentary on taxonomy and noted variations. A total of 29 plates are included that illustrate one or more aspect, usually habit, for 65 of the 148 recognized species.

This contribution is significant because it represents the first published floristic treatment of Bromeliaceae for Sao Paulo state. There are, however, a number of curious features about the work that detract from its value.

In the key to genera, and in the generic description for Bromelia, the rosette of leaves is characterized as forming a tank, a condition not associated with the genus, and for a neophyte this would likely lead to identifying a Bromelia specimen as Acanthostachys when using this key. Application of the tank habit to Bromelia broadens the morphological concept of the tank to a point where it becomes synonymous with rosette, and thus has no diagnostic significance.

There is some confusion concerning the listed exicata as part of each species treatment. For example, "Material Selecionado", a list of one to several selected specimens used to document each species is used most often, but then "Material Examinado", is also encountered in other cases (e.g., Aechmea lingulata, Vriesea vulpinoidea). The mixed use of Material "Selecionado" and "Examinado" is most likely an editorial error and probably goes unnoted by most users. However, because the specimens examined are the data upon which a scientific floristic treatment is based, specimen citation needs to be clear. This brings us to the "Lista de exsicatas", or list of herbarium specimens examined for the entire family treatment. Estimated at approximately 2,700, this list is not reader/user-friendly. For example, an entry consists of the collector's last name and initial(s), followed by the collection number and finally the taxon number (e.g., Gomez, S.M.: 451 (15.5)). In this example the taxon number, 15.5, is the number for Quesnelia violacea, but because Gomez 451 is not listed as one of the selected specimens examined, the interested reader receives no information on location, it would take an unreasonable effort to determine the herbarium location for examination. This is not a trivial problem, since it appears that only about half of the estimated 2,700 exicata are listed with more detailed information in the "Material Selecionado" (or "Examinado") sections, and thus could not be easily located.

A couple of taxonomic judgments also deserve mention. First is the decision to include full treatments for four undescribed species, one in Aechmea (with full illustration in plate 5), and three in Vriesea (none illustrated). This is largely unprecedented in modern plant taxonomy where the norm is to describe new taxa either before a floristic treatment is published so that the new binomial can be used; or publish the new binomial within the floristic treatment; or only mention existence of a putative, new species, but not include a full treatment.

Second, the authors also demonstrate a strong tendency to maintain broad circumscription concepts, more in line with Smith & Downs (1974, 1977, 1979)(Smith and Downs 1974; Smith and Downs 1977; Smith and Downs 1979)rather than follow published revisionary changes that are based on focused, systematic monographic study (e.g., (Grant 1995); Leme (Leme 1997), (Leme 1998)). Thus, certain generic level taxonomic concepts (Table 1; i.e., Canistrum, Nidularium, Wittrockia), are contrary to the mainstream views of the Bromeliaceae research community. For example, Martinelli (Martinelli, Viera et al. 2008), and Luther (Luther 2008) utilize the more current and progressive circumscriptions (e.g., Grant 1995, Leme, 1997, 1998, (Leme 2000)) that reflect a more refined understanding of taxon variation and diversity.

One of the major goals of modern plant systematics is to develop classifications, based on sound data, which better reflect presumed phylogenetic relationships, and do not perpetuate known polyphyletic groups (see (Brown, Luther et al. 1993); (Tuthill and Brown 2003)). This means that any nomenclatural change, including the designation of taxonomic synonyms, should be based on tangible data and explicit scientific justification. However, this floristic treatment of Bromeliaceae provides neither new data, nor a data based justification, to explain the maintenance of older arguably artificial generic concepts (e.g., Smith & Downs 1979) over more recent, rational monographic revisions. Examples of this include the rejection of Edmundoa and Wittrockia (Wanderley, Martins et al. 2007), as distinct genera from Canistrum, and Canistropsis, which was placed into synonymy under Nidularium (Moreira, Wanderley et al. 2007). In the case of Edmundoa and Wittrockia the only explanation given was that variability of the diagnostic characteristics was continuous. With Canistropsis the justification was, again, vague and not rooted in any newly produced scientific data. This results in the new combinations Canistrum ambiguum, C. paulistanum, and Nidularium exiguum, which should have been avoided under the current state of knowledge, as this does not add new information, only nomenclatural instability.

Section 9 of the preamble of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature states that "the only proper reason for changing a name are either a more profound knowledge of the facts resulting from adequate taxonomic study or the necessity of giving up a nomenclature that is contrary to the rules" (McNeill, Barrie et al. 2006). Based on this principle, the situation here is not different from that depicted by Brown et al. (Brown, Luther et al. 1993) who rejected the proposal of Smith & Kress (Smith and Kress 1989) to raise all subgenera of Aechmea to generic rank, also grounded on the fact that no new information concerning Aechmea was presented.

According to Brummitt & Sosef ((Brummitt and Sosef 1998), it is wrong to reject a proposed hypothesis that is well-founded on data, just because one does not agree with that proposal, or because it could possibly be wrong; one must await new data that demonstrate the contrary or a more reasonable hypothesis. However, neither new data nor more reasonable hypotheses were raised in the treatment of Bromeliaceae for Sao Paulo state. The consequence is a significant number of new superfluous binomials.

More information about the Flora Fanerogamica do Estado de Sao Paulo project can be found at: htm

Literature cited:

Brown, G. K., H. Luther, et al. (1993). "Comments on the responsibility of taxonomists." J. Bromeliad Soc. 43(4): 154-156.

Brummitt, R. K. and M. S. M. Sosef (1998). "Paraphyletic taxa are inherent in Linnaean classification--a reply to Freudenstein. ." Taxon 47(2): 411-412.

Grant, J. (1995). "Bromelienstudien. The resurrection of Alcantarea and Werauhia, a new genus." Trop. Subtrop. Pflanzenwelt 91: 1-57.

Leme, E. M. C. (1997). Canistrum--Bromeliads of the Atlantic Forest. . Rio de Janeiro, Salamandra.

Leme, E. M. C. (1998). Canistropsis--Bromeliads of the Atlantic Forest. Rio de Janiero, Salamandra.

Leme, E. M. C. (2000). Nidularium: Bromeliads of The Atlantic Forest. Rio de Janeiro, Sextante Artes.

Luther, H. (2008). An alphabetical list of bromeliad binomials. Eleventh Edition. USA, Bromeliad Society International.

Martinelli, G., C. M. Viera, et al. (2008). "Bromeliaceae de Mata Atlantica Brasileira: Lista de Especies, Distribuicao e Conservacao." Rodriguesia 59: 209-258.

McNeill, J., H. M. Barrie, et al. (2006). "International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (Vienna Code)." Regnum Vegetabile 146(i-xvii): 1-568.

Melhem, T. S., M. G. L. Wanderley, et al. (2007). "Flora Fanerogamica do Estado de Sao Paulo." Bromeliaceae 5: 39-161. Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo.

Moreira, B. A., M. G. L. Wanderley, et al. (2007). "Nidularium" Bromeliaceae 595-109 Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo.

Smith, L. B. and R. J. Downs (1974). Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 14 (Pitcairnioideae) (Bromeliaceae). New York, Hafner Press.

Smith, L. B. and R. J. Downs (1977). Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 14, Part 2: Tillandsioideae (Bromeliaceae). New York, Hafner Press.

Smith, L. B. and R. J. Downs (1979). Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 14, Part 3 Bromelioideae (Bromeliaceae). New York, The New York Botanical Garden.

Smith, L. B. and W. J. Kress (1989). "New or restored genera of Bromeliaceae." Phytologia 66(1): 70-79.

Tuthill, D. E. and G. K. Brown (2003). "Taxonomic categories and the quest for a natural classification scheme." J. Bromeliad Soc. 53(5): 205-209.

Wanderley, M. G. L. and S. E. Martins (2007). "Bromeliaceae." Bromeliaceae 5: 39-43, Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo.

Wanderley, M. G. L., S. E. Martins, et al. (2007). "Canistrum." Bromeliaceae 5: 73-79, Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo.


Brown, G.K. Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, U.S.A. (

Till, W. Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, Institute of Botany and Botanical Garden, University of Vienna, Rennweg 14, 1030 Vienna, Austria (walter.till@univie.

Leme, E.J. Herbarium Bradeanum, C. Postal 15.005, CEP 20031-970, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (

Grant, J. Laboratoire de botanique evolutive, Institut de botanique, Universite de Neuchatel, Emile-Argand 11, 2007 Neuchatel, Switzerland (
Table 1. Bromeliad genera, number of species, and authorship, arranged
by subfamily, in the Bromeliaceae--Flora of Sao Paulo state, Brazil
(Melhem et al. 2007).

Subfamily Genus number of Authorship of
 species generic treatment

Bromelioideae Acanthostachys 1 Proenca &
 Aechmea 17 + 1 undesc. Martins, Wanderley
 & Proenca
 Ananas 4 Martins, Proenca
 & Wanderley
 Billbergia 7 Proenca, Wanderley
 & Martins
 Bromelia 3 Proenca, Louzada
 & Wanderley
 Canistrum 7 Wanderley, Martins,
 Proenca & Moreira
 Fernseea 2 Proenca &
 Hohenbergia 2 Proenca, Martins
 & Wanderley
 Neoregelia 11 Wanderley & Sousa
 Nidularium 22 Moreira, Wanderley
 & Martinelli
 Quesnelia 5 Proenca, Martins
 & Wanderley
Pitcairnioideae Dyckia 4 Forzza
 Pitcairnea 1 Forzza
Tillandsioideae Alcantarea 1 Versieux &
 Catopsis 3 Oliveira & Lima
 Racinae 2 Fiorato &
 Tillandsia 15 Wanderley, Fiorato,
 Ogawa & Tardivo
 Vriesea 47 + 3 undesc. Costa, Wanderley
 & Moura
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Scientific
Author:Brown, Gregory K.; Till, Walter; Leme, Elton; Grant, Jason
Publication:Journal of the Bromeliad Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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