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  Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society

Thursday August 2, 2018 from 7 - 9 pm

"The Art of Naming a Species: Can They Really do That?"

Presented by Greg Starr

Click here to watch the presentation of the meeting on video

Note the meeting location:

Sky Islands Public High School, 6000 E. 14th Street, Tucson, AZ 85711

Greg on a horse

Have you ever wondered how a new species gets named and described? Greg has had a little experience with the process in describing some Hesperaloe species and Agave species and will shed some light on the secret world of botany. For the past 20+ years, Greg has been especially interested in the genus Agave although he has dabbled in other plants, succulent and non-succulent, as well. The genus Agave is a relatively young one as far as plants go and seems to be in the process of speciating as we speak. In 1982, Howard Scott Gentry published his monumental monograph on the Agaves of Continental North America, in which he delineated a total of 136 species, 25 subspecies, and 29 varieties for a total of 190 recognized taxa in Agave sensu stricto, or in the strict sense, which does not include the genus Manfreda. Since publication of Gentry’s book, there have been a total of 41 new species described or pulled out of synonymy and elevated back to species status. Some of the new species described are very localized while others are a result of splitting up some seemingly highly variable species.
In the past three years, Greg has traveled three times to Oaxaca, thanks in large part to funding by TCSS, to study the question of variability in Agave titanota. This has led to a larger study of the agaves in the Marginatae group, that is the one with a continuous woody margin, and to some other, very interesting side projects, including one which will be presented next month. The results of the Agave titanota project are still a long way off as the DNA sequencing still needs to be conducted and then the analysis will need to be performed.

Greg has both a BS in Plant Science and an MS in Botany/Plant Science from the University of Arizona. While working on his MS degree, Greg worked at the University herbarium under the tutelage of Dr. Charles T. Mason. It was there he learned the details of taxonomy and nomenclature and honing his skills at plant identification using botanical keys. For his MS, Greg blended his love of both horticulture and botany to produce a thesis covering the species of Salvia that had been in cultivation since 1900. Greg opened a small, native or near-native plant nursery in July 1985 and although he had an interest in cacti and succulents, it took several years for that interest to become an infection causing him to produce his book, Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers, and to be a co-author on the Field Guide to Cacti & Succulents of Arizona. Currently, Greg spends the heat of summer days in the relatively cool environment of his house sitting in front of the computer hoping that a random assault of his hands on the keyboard will result in article for the CSSA journal or another book.

Please be sure to clear your calendar for Thursday, August 2, and join everyone at an excellent evening of friends, fun, books, raffle plants, free plants and lots of excellent refreshments. You will really enjoy Greg's program so, do not miss it!


Agave titanota at Rancho Tambor


Agave titanota


Free Plant Giveaway

You can view the plants on this page

August Refreshments

Those with family names beginning with
I - P
, please bring your choice of refreshments to the
meeting. Your generous sharing will
be greatly appreciated and enjoyed!

Meeting Schedule

Get a map and directions from Google Maps

TCSS reserves the right to change dates and/or program should it be necessary.