Monograph of the Genus Gongora Ruiz & Pavon

© Nina Rach
Edited 27 April 2007


Cover This genus was named for Don Antonio Caballero y Gongora, and now comprises over 50 species, native to tropical America. Here are reviews and comments about the 1993 book by Rudolf Jenny:


From Ratcliffe's booklist:

"JENNY - MONOGRAPH OF THE GENUS GONGORA RUIZ AND PAVON, 1993. This is the first complete survey of Gongora since the genus was described in 1794. The author gives full scientific descriptions for each of the cultivated species. Essays on pollination ecology, cultivation, distribution and history complement descriptions of new species, a list of all known species and a key for identification. Hardcover. 136 pages plus 23 pages with dozens of color and black-and-white photographs and line drawings."


From the American Orchid Society booklist:

"BK6013 - Monograph of the Genus Gongora Ruiz & Pavon Jenny, Rudolf 1993. Essays on pollination ecology, cultivation, distribution and history complement descriptions of the species, a list of all known species and a key for identification. 136 pages plus 23 pages with dozens of color and black-and-white photographs and line drawings. Hardcover."


From Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany:

"Jenny, Rudolf: Monograph of the genus GONGORA Ruiz & Pavon. 1993. 84 colour photographs on plates. Many black & white figures. 136 p. Cloth Large-Quarto. (ISBN 3-87429-332 7) General section covers distribution, literature, taxonomy, herbarium material, pollination,, cultivation, followed by the special part including descriptions, keys, information on basionyms, type-specimen, pollinator (if known), history of species, etymology, distribution, and closely allied species."


Review from The Cutting Edge, January 1995:

Jenny, Rudolf 1993. Monograph of the genus Gongora Ruiz & Pavón (transl. M. Sommer & C. d'Heureuse).
Koeltz Scientific Books, Champaign, IL, U. S. A./Königstein, Germany.

This (according to the dust jacket) "is the first complete survey of the genus Gongora [Orchidaceae] since it was first described in 1794." The operative word is "survey," as this is in no sense a rigorous taxonomic revision. A new infrageneric classification is introduced, comprising three subgenera and seven sections, all published here for the first time. The total number of species accepted in the genus is 53, of which nine are definitely recorded from Costa Rica (only G. amparoana Schltr. is apparently endemic); one new species and one new combination are here validated. Distribution is reported in a highly confusing fashion (e.g., "Central America, Mexico" seems to indicate that a species is only known from Mexico), and there are no maps. Furthermore, virtually no specimens are cited (nor is there an index to exsiccatae), even though the author alludes to "the great mass of material I have received over the past years from all over the world" (p. 119). Most of the specimens that are cited are types, other historical collections in major orchid herbaria (K-L, W-R), or personal collections of the author or his contacts. Indeed, many species are known (to Jenny) only from the type, or a handful of collections from the type locality. This approach may be admired as profoundly conservative, but adds little to our previous knowledge of the genus. Gongora is one of the most frequently collected of the showy orchid genera; a wealth of Costa Rican material has been generated in recent years by the Manual project, and the same must be true for other regions. Yet none of this recent material appears to have been consulted by Jenny. Jenny notes (p. 10) that "it is only rarely possible to classify a badly deformed Gongora flower on an herbarium sheet, especially if it belongs to a species distinguishable from closely related species only by the scent components." Yet we are unable to find a single instance in any of Jenny's keys in which "scent components" are even so much as mentioned, let alone deployed as the sole character for distinguishing species. If good, modern collections with decent notes cannot be identified, what of century-old types? Not all dried orchid flowers are "badly deformed," and orchid flowers can be boiled up like any others.

This is essentially a taxonomic treatment of a handful of living specimens (often of unknown or dubious provenance) scattered among various horticultural collections; the extent to which it is relevant to wild populations remains to be seen. On the positive side, the work is well illustrated with line drawings and both black-and-white and color photographs, the latter mainly of living specimens. The biggest surprise for us: Gongora quinquenervis Ruiz & Pav., a name that has been used in virtually every regional Mesoamerican floristic treatment, properly refers (fide Jenny) to a species restricted to mid-elevations on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes (and possibly also occurring in Ecuador).


Links to sites about Gongora:

The Genus Gongora, by Nina Rach

Gongora - A list of the species


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