Sunday, February 10, 2013

South Carolina 8: Genetics

When South Carolina congressmen became more vociferous about the supposedly false theories of modern science, I began to wonder how Charleston had ever produced the important innovations in botany that underlay its lifestyle: the selection of new types of rice and roses. Periodically, I’ll be publishing the result of my inquiries into the lives of two innovative growers, Hezekiah Maham (rice) and John Champneys (roses). Previous entries can be found under “South Carolina” in the index at the right.

This entry continues looking at the culture’s beliefs about the origins of its plants.

Weather: Some days warmer for a few hours, but cold before noon; last rain 1/28/13; 11:01 hours of daylight today.

The ruthless winds returned yesterday. First they suck up the moisture, then they remove the newly dried dirt and expose more moist ground to be raided. Los Alamos and Santa Fé have been getting snow showers, but we’ve only had clouds.

What’s still green: Few rose stems; juniper, pine, and other evergreens; yucca, Madonna lily, grape hyacinth leaves.

What’s red: Cholla; apple, apricot, sandbar willow branches.

What’s grey or blue: Winterfat, golden hairy aster leaves.

What’s yellow: Globe and weeping willow branches.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds.

Weekly update: The facts about Carolina Gold rice and Champneys Pink Cluster rose are sparse. However, because each was important, others have created narratives that fit their beliefs. Not surprisingly those mythic explanations have changed with circumstances to fit our changing expectations for appropriate heroes.

Originally, people gave credit to John Champneys for the hybrid pink rose, but today people prefer Philippe Noisette. That’s not because of Champneys’ Tory leanings, which are largely unknown, but because Noisette married a mulatto in Haiti and lived openly with her and their six children in Charleston.

Earlier, people accepted the view that Hezekiah Maham’s rice, and that of early South Carolina, came from Madagascar. More recently, some scholars, especially Judith Carney, have taken the facts that the early methods for milling and winnowing rice came from Africa and that many of the slaves imported in the years when Henry Laurens was active in the trade came from the rice growing regions of west Africa, to suggest that not only was seed rice imported from Africa, but the entire agricultural tool kit, including irrigation methods, was introduced by Blacks in exchange for adoption of an easier task system of labor.

Few gardeners or farmers care about the origins of their plants, except as amusing trivia. However, the facts and the way they are interpreted can be important social indicators. The differences and similarities in the way two disparate plants are treated may go farther to reveal underlying cultural patterns.

The only facts we tend to accept today come from genetics. Recently, biologists at Florida Southern College have confirmed that all the DNA found in fragment bands in Champneys Pink Cluster is found in Parson’s Pink and existing musk roses. They also confirmed that only half the DNA found in Blush Noisette is shared with Champneys Pink Cluster, and the rest is from some unknown source. They made no attempt to determine which was the pollen and which the seed parent for Champneys’ rose.

Genetic interpretations of the origin of rice are more controversial, because honor is involved. Ya-Long Guo and Song Ge believe the rice genus, Oryza, diverged within the grass family about 15 million years ago during the Miocene and the African varieties separated from the Asian about 7 million years ago.

The closest relative of modern rice, Oryza sativa, is rufipogon, itself dervied from nivara, while the nearest species to domesticated African rice, glaberrima is barthii. Nivara and barthii share a common ancestor. All are considered be part of the same AA genome, distinct from five other groups of modern rice.

The Asian rice divided into two subspecies, wetland japonica and dryland indica, as a result of domestication and the subsequent movement of rice eaters into new habitats. Some, looking at the genetics, argue the one is derived from the other. Others, looking at the archaeological record, believe they resulted from separate events that occurred south of the Himalayas, one in India, Myanmar or Thailand, the other in southern China or Vietnam.

As rice moved from China through Korea to Japan and the Philippines, then southeast to Sulawesi, Borneo, Java, and Sumatra, another, more tropical, subspecies emerged, javanica. This was the one taken to Madagascar. Linguists have determined current Malagasy is closest to the Maanyan language of Borneo, while geneticists have found the DNA of modern residents owes its Asian component to Borneo.

Medieval trade with Arabs on Kilwa island, who had contact through Aden with Gujuart, may have first introduced dryland rice from India. As trade and contacts across the Indian Ocean expanded after Europeans appeared, more ways were opened for rice imports.

In 1986, Koji Tanaka discovered javanica is still grown on the southeast coast of Madagascar where it’s extracted by foot, and milled with a mortar and pestle. In the uplands and west, indica dominates and animals are used to separate the rice. The northeast grows javanica and uses animal labor.

Notes: Javanica is now treated as a subspecies of japonica.

Burney, David. “Finding the Connections between Paleoecology, Ethnobotany and Conservation in Madagascar,” Ethnobotany Research and Applications 3:385-389:2005.

Carney, Judith. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas, 2001.

Garlake, Peter. The Kingdoms of Africa, 1978.

Guo, Ya-Long and Song Ge. “Molecular Phylogeny of Oryzeae (Poaceae) Based on DNA Sequences from Chloroplast, Mitochondrial, and Nuclear Genomes,” American Journal of Botany 92:1548-1558:2005.

Hurles, Matthew E., Bryan C. Sykes, Mark A. Jobling, and Peter Forster. “The Dual Origin of the Malagasy in Island Southeast Asia and East Africa: Evidence from Maternal and Paternal Lineages,” The American Journal of Human Genetics 76:894-901:2005.

Joshi, S. P., V. S. Gupta, R. K. Aggarwal, P. K. Ranjekar, and D. S. Brar. “Genetic Diversity and Phylogenetic Relationship as Revealed by Inter Simple Sequence Repeat (ISSR) Polymorphism in the Genus Oryza,” Theoretical and Applied Genetics 100:1311-1320:2000.

Tanaka, Koji. “Rice and Rice Culture in Madagascar,” Tonan Ajia Kenkyu 26:367-393:1989.

_____ “Malayan Cultivated Rice and Its Expansion - Part Three,” Agricultural Archaeology 97-107:1997.

1. Tis the season for going through the summer’s pictures to try to identify the unknowns. For years, I thought Green Flower was in the morning glory family, with its five petals joined into a plate. I found nothing. Flower taken 7 September 2008.

2. One day this summer when I was turning every page of Geyata Ajilvsgi’s Wildflowers of Texas, I saw pictures of False Nightshade that had similar flowers, but very dissimilar leaves. This plant has long, narrow, dark green leaves. Leaves taken 2 October 2011.

3. Sometimes they rise a bit and show wavy edges and a backward arch. Leaves taken 26 July 2008.

4. The Solanaceae connection isn’t obvious, despite those occasional leaves. It center doesn’t protrude and the petals are not pinned back like those of tomatoes. Flower taken 6 June 2011.

5. At least one plant has been growing in the gravel of my drive since 1997. Sometimes there were more, but usually only two or three. The leaves would spread into low, round masses, but would not leave the drive and would not accept transplanting.

This year, after I had work done on the drive, and more gravel delivered, the plants in the drive were larger. They also spread down the bank and provided ground cover for some annuals. I don’t know it they are the seed from the same plants, or if new seed was brought in from the north. Plants filling the spaces between larkspur, juniper, Shirley and California poppies, 13 August 2012.

6. The man doing the backhoe work said the plants were common in his area, but he had no name for then. They're just one of those things that grow, that serve no obvious purpose, but aren’t dangerous enough to attack. Plants around blue-gray California poppy, 10 November 2012.

7. I should have known they weren’t a morning glory. They’re cold hearty. After temperatures fell to 15 in mid-November, the leaves disappeared, but the green stems remained. It was only after the snow of mid-December, that everything died. Plant with cottonwood leaves, 21 December 2012.

8. So this week, I followed Ajilvsgi’s lead, and looked up Chamaesaracha in E. O. Wooton and Paul C. Standley’s Flora of New Mexico. It has no pictures and useless descriptions, but did list two species that grow in New Mexico. This is coronopus, even though the USDA doesn’t show it growing in Rio Arriba county. Flower buds, 24 April 2011.

9. The plant has sticky hairs, which is why the pictures often show more dirt than detail. The perennial has some kind of berry which has been used by the Hopi and Navajo, but I’ve never seen one. The common name, Green Leaf Five-eyes, is no more useful than the Green Flower I’ve called it for years, when I protected it. I’ll probably still call it that, at least to myself, and hope it comes back along the bare drive bank. It is one of those plants that may be insignificant, but give pleasure all the same. Plant and flowers, 11 August 2006.

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