Hydrangea 2007, an international conference (http://www.hydrangea2007.be/en.php) devoted to hydrangeas for enthusiasts and gardeners, is approaching, and I’m speaking. The conference, which will be held at the Ghent University Botanical Garden in Belgium, begins on 16 August. And on Friday, I began work on my talk. This involved perhaps an hour of pacing, and then I fixed tea, and then I made a trip to a vending machine for some chips. With tea and chips, I settled into writing.
I typed my title—‘Becoming Hydrangea’—and went on to the senses that I want the audience to take from it. The first is an evolutionary sense—I want to convey the changes that occurred in Hydrangeaceae, the hydrangea family, to give rise to the plants that we recognize as hydrangeas. The hydrangea family includes several genera in addition to Hydrangea, and many of these would not be popularly recognized as cousins of Hydrangea. The second sense of ‘becoming Hydrangea’ is taxonomic. Our studies to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the hydrangea family have shown that Hydrangea in an evolutionary sense is broader than what Hydrangea has been in recent taxonomies. If we are to understand the diversity of hydrangeas, we need to change our taxonomy to reflect better our understanding of evolution in the Hydrangea lineage.
On Friday, I wrote those introductory ideas, explaining our knowledge of the evolutionary history of the family, how it is most closely related to Loasaceae, another family of research emphasis in my lab, and more deeply related to dogwoods, tupelo, and the dovetree. I sketched notes on the timing of the evolutionary split between Loasaceae and the hydrangea family and described the geographic radiation that occurred within Hydrangeaceae.
After cleaning the bathroom, getting groceries, and starting a load of laundry, I went today to the writing table in the basement as the afternoon heat began to rise in my house. There I wrote about the ecological and morphological changes that mark the lineage that would become Hydrangea and also began to write about the broadened sense that we need for the genus.
Finally, the lineages of Hydrangea came up; I began to think about the important points that I would like to make about the diversity we find in Hydrangea. And I began wonder where I’ve stored all of the images I’ve used over the last decade in talks about the evolution of hydrangeas. This is a topic I haven’t addressed in detail for a few years, and I hesitate to think about the out-of-date storage devices on which all of my electronic files have been stored.
Tomorrow morning, first thing, I must look for the cache of electronic images as well as the hoard of negatives and slides that I will need to make new images for the talk.