G. Bentham Esq
June 10. 1875
My Dear Sir
I have sent a little box with a specimen of a plant which I wish to submit to your botanical judgment. In a month’s time I shall be able to send ripe capsules of it, and then it will make a Herbarium specimen.
This plant I raised in my garden from Natal seeds some years ago, and finding it to be undescribed I gave it the name of Vellozia elegans, and sent it to the Edinburgh Botanical Society – Professor Balfour of Edinburgh was of opinion that it constituted a new genus to which he gave my name, but subsequently Dr Hooker abolished this genus, and restored the name of Vellozia elegans. <1> I should be glad to have your opinion about it.
I have found specimens of the plant in the Kew Herbarium collected by Harvey, the author of the Flora Capensis, and he not only separates it from Vellozia, but even from the natural order in which Vellozia is placed.
I believe he calls it Hypoxis barbacenioides – Some of Balfour’s reasons for separating this plant from Vellozia were, that all the Vellozias hitherto known are natives of Brazil, but this of Africa. This of course only affords a primâ facie ground for doubting its being a true Vellozia – But then there is an immense difference between the polyandrous Vellozias figured by Martius in his Nova Genera, and this little hexandrous plant with delicate filiform scapes and drooping flowers.
Barbacenia has been separated from Vellozia owing to its having dilated filaments bifid at their extremity (for there is no other difference that I know of) –
My plant differs from both in having a corolla, which thin and delicate at first, turns green hardens, and invests the Capsule, never falling off, whereas in both Vellozia and Barbacenia Martius says it falls off at length (demum) and exposes the naked capsule.
On their rules for separating or uniting genera Botanists are inconsistent For example we find that Ipomæa is separated from Convolvulus, and Crinum from Amaryllis. The difference is small, but it is considered sufficient.
Why then should other genera be united together which differ much more than Crinum differs from Amaryllis?
A peculiarity of my plant is that its flowers need not be cut, they can be drawn out of their sheaths –
Believe me Yours very faithfully
H. F. Talbot
I have enclosed in a separate paper some buds and young flowers which if you put them in water will I think expand freshly.
Would you give any value to the simple stigma, not trilobed?
1. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine published his plant as Vellozia elegans, Natal Vellozia, s. 3 v. 25, 1 November 1869, Tab. 5803. Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker observed, 'our first knowlege of this plant was derived from a specimen brought from his garden by the Hon. H. Fox Talbot, F.R.S., to the Kew Herbarium, in 1866, which was raised from seed procured either from the Cape or Madagascar, which Professor Oliver prounded to be a Vellozia (identical with a Natal plant, Hypoxis barbacenioides, Harv. MSS.), and the name V. elegans was proposed for it. A specimen, presented by Mr. Fox Talbot to the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, was next exhibited to the Botanical Society of that city by my friend Professor Balfour, as Vellozia elegans (see Proc. Bot. Soc. Edinb., ix. p. 79, Jan. 1867). At a subsequent meeting (l.c. p. 1839, 13th June), Dr. Balfour again exhibited this plant as V. Talboti, or, if it should prove a new genus, Talbotia elegans. On a third occasion (l.c. p. 192, 11th July), he exhibited it as Talbotia elegans, without a generic character....'