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Article 1

I set out on a journey to Leiden in the Netherlands to see Kiryu's primula, "kakko-so", for myself. I had heard that a kakko-so specimen had been carried back to Europe by Siebold was preserved there, but until now no one had actually confirmed this report.

Tracing its path, I found the specimen reposing in the archives of the Rijksherbarium. There it was - after the passage of 170 years and a journey halfway around the world. The pink hue of the blossoms had been frozen in time along with its distinctive deep green hairy leaves. The flower, named by Miquel was inscribed there in Siebold's and Miquel's own hands. I was filled with awe at the sight.

Narukami Mountain (979.7 m) is the sole habitat of the Kiryu "kakko-so" - a perennial of the primula genus. Its violet-pink flowers bloom in the shady environment of the woodlands late April to early May. Tucked into the mountain glen, the plants appear in clusters, minute details revealing its uniqueness, including its double petaled blossoms. The position and length of the flower's pistils and stamens are of two types. It has only recently been discovered that "toramaru" bees (Bombus diversus Smith) act as intermediaries, carrying pollen from the flower stamen to the pistils to produce seeds.

However, the plant is now on the brink of extinction. Its only habitat is challenged by increased cedar planting coupled with continued theft of the plant itself from its native habitat by hikers. This condition is further exacerbated by the construction of woodland roads. Conservationists have long voiced the need for preservation. Attempts to help the plant proliferate through bio-technology continue, however, the future of the primula remains uncertain. This is not just the problem of one flowering plant. Under these conditions, it is important to research the history in which the Kiryu primula is entwined.

The Kiryu primula was first identified as a new species and assigned scientific nomenclature when Siebold carried it back to Europe in a volume of plant specimens. The name was given a year after he died in Munich, exactly 130 years ago. According to a text written by the director of the Rijksherbarium, Miquel, the plant was first introduced to the world with the scientific name of "Primula kisoana". The name indicates that the plant is a variety of "sakura-so", originating from the Kiso area. I decided to go to see the specimen for myself in order to further investigate this puzzle. 

I found the specimen in the Rijksherbarium archive preserved on a standardized 50X30 cm pasteboard. The word "katsukosau" is written in katakana in India ink on the cover of a trifolded piece of Japanese paper. Unfolding the folio, one finds the specimens have been mounted with great care, and includes 2 flower stems and 2 leaves, displaying front and back sides. On the other side of the folio, there is a small piece of Japanese paper with the word, "katsukosau" written in katakana in the right margin. Above this paper, a paper pocket has been mounted in which a flower is preserved. One can only wonder when it had been picked.

Near the bottom of the cover is a label on which Miquel has written the scientific nomenclature for the flower and a note that it is from the collection of "Keisuke" (Keisuke Ito). In addition, the blue label found on the lower right corner of the cover has been written in Siebold's own hand. He also seemed to believe that it was a new variety and inscribed the name "Primula hirsuta S." on it. The name indicates that the plant is a variety of primula with particularly hairy leaves and stems. Under this, Siebold wrote that the plant originates from "a high mountain in the Kizo area." Miquel assigned the scientific nomenclature based on Siebold's "Kizo" inscription. In the same way, the name, "Primula ezoana," a large sakura-so from the collection of Sukeroku Mizutani, was assigned to the primula originating from "Jezo" (now Hokkaido).


Copyright (C) 2000 by Akiko Minosakii , Barbara Kamiayama
& Orijin Studio Miyamae
Kiryu Gunma 376-0046 Japan