Update March 2023: After personal discussion with Dr. Michael Barfuss he has assured me that this is a species in its own right. So now the name reverts to Tillandsia vanhyningii. Update December 2022: This blog post was posted in July 2022. At that time the name change had been accepted for more than six months by the authorities who maintain the Bromeliad Taxon list of current names (http://bromeliad.nl/taxonlist/?), and Tillandsia vanhyningii was on that list. In October 2022, those same authorities decided that this variety should not have be elevated to species level, and the name reverted to Tillandsia ionantha var. vanhyningii.
Someone got promoted to SPECIES status! Tillandsia ionantha var. vanhyningii was first described by Mulford B. Foster in 1957. Foster discovered the now Tillandsia vanyningii (pronounced van-HIGH-nin-gee-eye) in the Sumidero Canyon of Chiapas, Mexico, growing along steep limestone cliffs in large formations. At first glance, Foster was sure it was a new species, but after blooming and observing the plant, it appeared they have the same composition as many other forms of ionantha. In a paper published last year, Carlos Beutelspacher and Roberto Garcia Martinez argued for the reclassification of Tillandsia ionantha var. vanhyningii by elevating it to species status due to the caulescent growth habit not observed in other varieties or cultivars of ionantha. The name change was accepted, and so Tillandsia vanyningii is born. The name, which can be difficult to say honors long time Tillandsia collectors, the Van Hynings.
Get ready to change the labels on many of your plants, but don't remove the old name. You never know when that name may be resurrected.
An ongoing study of Bromeliaceae, by a group of cooperating scientists, has lead to proposed new reclassifications for subfamily Tillandsiodeae. Using DNA sequencing, in combination with morphological characteristics, they determine which species have common ancestors. The authors are proposing further taxonomic splits to a number of genera to form monophyletic classifications.
Herb Plever, Editor of Bromeliana, has done an excellent job explaining all these changes. For more in-depth (and scientific) explanation, see Herb Plever's original article here in Bromeliana newsletter.
Have you ever wondered how and why plants are named? I stumbled upon this BBC Series - A Botany A Blooming History. This series "tells the story of how people came to understand the natural order of the plant world". This quest to discover how plants grow uncovered the secret life of plants on our planet.
Part I of this series explains classification which is based on morphology and reproductive biology, and has existed for more than 300 years. All this is changing as a result of DNA sequencing. This video not only explains the history of traditional classification but also shows how DNA sequencing is explaining plant relationships.
Grab a cup of tea and enjoy this nearly hour long video.
Horticulturalist & Explorer Specializing in the Genus Tillandsia.