Ranunculus revision?

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Fri, 20 Jul 2007 08:06:29 PDT
Those of you who are gardeners first and armchair taxonomists second (if at
all) might be asking a question or two about these names Ranunculus ficaria
and Ficaria verna. 

I know I would have been, except that it just happens that I ran across a
discussion of these names recently and I now understand what, from a
taxonomic point of view, is happening. 

Most of us, as gardeners, know about the rule of priority: basically, the
earliest validly published name is the one to use. 

If (as it is) Ranunculus ficaria is a validly published name, and if (as it
is) the first validly published name for the species in question, what
happened to the rule of priority? How does Ranunculus ficaria become Ficaria
verna? If the first published species name was ficaria, wouldn't ficaria
trump verna? 

It would, except for one of the basic principles of botanical nomenclature:
tautology in the genus and species names is not allowed. In other words, if
you establish a genus Ficaria, you cannot have a species in that genus named
ficaria. You then use the next validly published name in line, so-to-speak. 

I have not seen a modern treatment of Ranunculus, but if a genus other than
Ficaria is used for the species in question, the species epithet goes back
to ficaria.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where global warming isn't so
much a concern as local drying. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden http://www.jimmckenney.com/

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