I guess this is easy for me to say living half a world away, but has anybody visited or have plans to visit the famed red flava Blackwater Forest site at this time of year? Any of you local Floridians?
I suspect observing and capturing images of the red flava before or just after the pitchers are open and prior to being ultimately coloured at the other end of the season may go some way to adding to the debate on these enigmatic plants. In fact, I can't help feeling that recording the pitchers at that stage, particularly the yet to open hoods, is vital within the 'where do these plants fit within flava varieties' debate. For understandable reasons, nearly all the images I've seen of the Blackwater 'atropurpurea' are when they are 'at their best' which is well into the season. I would be more than interested to be able to compare the red pitchers in their earliest stages with those of others in Western Florida, notably var. rubricorpora, at the same stage.
I visit Blackwater regularly, and have seen the autropurpurea varieties there mixed in with ornata, rugelii, maxima and rubricorpora. I'm not sure if i would be able to tell the pitchers apart early in the season from the other red varieties, i would have to flag the plant when the pitcher is mature in the summer and come back in the spring when it is just getting started.
From what i have seen of the plants they seem to be somewhat shorter than the other varieties around them and somewhat more squat, so they might be a hybrid introgression with S. rosea that leans towards the S. flava side more.
You advise you might not be able to tell the difference between any given pitchers of any given plants. That's actually what I would like to see: whether or not all plants look the same just prior to/immediately after pitchers opening ie, if all the red tubes at the outset have yellow unopened tops to them or some have red tops instead. Certainly those rubricorpora that become completely red still begin with a yellow lid which differentiates them from East Coast atropurpurea.
Your proposal is a good one, however, and I for one would certainly be grateful for any effort such as that if you're open to it.
I'll try to head out to blackwater sometime this year and flag some plants that look promising, and i will also talk to the curator of the local herbarium and see if he knows anything about this or if he has any specimens of the plants at this time of the year. Hopefully next year around this time i will have some pics to show you, and hopefully they will help.
I was at the BRSF S flava atropurpurea site approximately one month ago and saw some of the first newly emerged plants. As soon as the pitchers inflate and open, the true atropurpurea are solid red with no yellow on the plant.
It is very easy to see the difference between the v. atropurpurea (very, very rare throughout range) and the v. rubricorpora (uncommon, but not rare)early in the year. S flava v atropurpurea will never have a yellow lid at any time of it's growth phases (in field conditions).
You can look at some of my photos from late summer where it becomes very difficult to tell the difference bewteen the two variants:
Really appreciate the feedback and valuable observations Brad. Always been utterly impressed by your photographic field work.
Unless these all red "atropurpurea" are indeed the result of translocated Carolina specimens of var. atropurpurea as legend will have it (in which case they are then just that), I still contend that the rare Carolina var. atropurpurea remains distinct due to significant geographical isolation of the two populations (not unlike the case made for S.rosea and S.montana - which I'm not promoting here), the lack of the intimate relationship of the eastern population with both var. rugelii and the var. rubricorpora (analogous as that is with the intimacy in the Carolinas between varieties. atropurpurea, flava, cuprea, maxima) and, thereby, any of the all red "atropurpurea" of Western Florida require a name all of their own in reflection of this or are by some measure included within the var. rubricorpora that surround them with whom they have an intimate relationship by all accounts.
That is, of course, if variety names are considered important which remains highly debatable with respect to genetics, taxonomy and cultivation. Indeed, the what may simply be emotive variety designations probably muddy the reality of identifying relationships between/within particular populations (as mentioned elsewhere by John Brittnacher) and the demarcation from others which potentially can be relied upon via other more rigorous/in depth investigative consideration into all aspects of any given plants.
With reference to the above relationships, it would seem reasonable to anticipate seeing the varieties flava, cuprea and maxima occur (as in the Atlantic coast) at the Blackwater and other W. Florida sites where the "atropurpurea" are found if they were indeed translocated var. atropurpurea. Putting to one side the somewhat troublesome and ever present variety "ornata", the fact that such occurrence of those varieties is pretty much never mentioned - at least in numbers that would be expected rather than lone individuals that are suggested as analogies of var. cuprea for example - is an additional element that reinforces for me the distinction between the populations. See Mike Wang's excellent photo record of Florida all reds as he found them. Note the plants intimate to the all reds: link
On that score, I note that, as far as I'm aware, nobody records var. rubricorpora in the Carolinas where var. atropurpurea and its aforementioned kin are found. I posit this is a further foundation for the distinction between the all red populations in question.