Gladiolus murielae taxonomy question

John Grimshaw
Wed, 08 Jun 2011 00:28:16 PDT
The answer to Jim McKenney's question about the nomenclature of Gladiolus 
murielae is set out in Peter Goldblatt's 'Gladiolus of Tropical Africa' 

The original name for the plant was Acidanthera bicolor Hochst. but when 
Acidanthera became accepted into Gladiolus there already was a Gladiolus 
bicolor Baker, so the specific epithet could not be transferred from 
Acidanthera to a new combination in Gladiolus as would otherwise be the 
case - you can't have two species called Gladiolus bicolor.

Marais (1973) therefore renamed it G. callianthus, evidently overlooking or 
bypassing for some reason Kelway's name G. murielae from 1932, which is a 
published specific name in Gladiolus and therefore has priority.  It's a 
simple issue of the rules of taxonomy: priority is priority, and Goldblatt 
has judged Kelway's publication of G. murielae to be valid. Perhaps Marais 
thought it was not (the rules on validity, or their interpretation, do 
change) or he assumed that it was indeed meant as a horticultural variant. 
Without checking his text one can't be sure.

It's an unfortunate series of changes, complicated by the wide use in 
horticulture of the name "Acidanthera bicolor murielae" for many decades, 
suggesting that murielae is a varietal name. Goldblatt makes a point of 
saying that the species is as a whole is not very variable, so the 
description of G. murielae as a full species might have been avoided had it 
been made by a botanist, but it was made by a nurseryman with new stock on 
his hands...

John Grimshaw

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Dr. John M. Grimshaw
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Tel. 01242 870567

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim McKenney" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2011 7:39 PM
Subject: [pbs] Gladiolus murielae taxonomy question

> Does anyone know the story behind the revival of the name Gladiolus 
> murielae?
> This species was described in 1844 as Acidanthera bicolor, and was  well 
> established in cultivation at the beginning of the twentieth century (and 
> maybe before) as Acidanthera bicolor. For those who merge Acidanthera and 
> Gladiolus, there is a minor nomenclatural  problem:  the old species name 
> bicolor could not be used because the name Gladiolus bicolor was already 
> in use.
> Kelway's name Gladiolus murielae was coined (published in 1932)  for a 
> commercial entity which I take to be a minor horticultural improvement of 
> the plant already well-known as Acidanthera bicolor. Since Kelway 
> published this name in the Gardeners Chronicle, it can hardly be said to 
> have been languishing in some obscure journal. Yet throughout the 
> twentieth century very few authorities if any used the combination 
> Gladiolus murielae in the better gardening literature.
> Perhaps the reason that Acidanthera bicolor persisted in the literature is 
> that it provided an easy dodge: there was uncertainty about what to call 
> this plant as a member of the genus Gladiolus, but there was no 
> uncertainty about what to call it as a member of the genus Acidanthera. 
> In 1972 the name Gladiolus callianthus was proposed for this plant, and 
> for the remainder of the twentieth century that was the name which appears 
> in the better literature.
> Why was Gladiolus callianthus proposed in the first place? It's hard to 
> believe that those involved did not know of Kelway's name, and if they did 
> I wonder if Kelway's Gladiolus murielae was eschewed for other reasons.
> Here's what I'm getting at: if the majority of authoritative sources used 
> the name Gladiolus callianthus for a quarter century, what triggered the 
> revival of the name Gladiolus murielae? I can't help but notice that if 
> Kelway had published the name as Gladiolus 'Muriel's', I would not be 
> asking these questions. But the use of a Latinized name (a common practice 
> at the time and one not necessarily  intended to have formal botanical 
> significance) seems to have elevated this name Gladiolus murielae for 
> consideration as a legitimate botanical epithet.
> What do the champions of the name Gladiolus murielae see which other 
> authorities missed for the better part of a century?
> Jim McKenney
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