Nectaroscordum meliophilum

Jane McGary
Mon, 26 May 2003 10:17:07 PDT
Mark McDonough mentioned naming problems: >Nectaroscordum meliophilum from 
the Saint Petersburg Botanic Garden, said to have
>originally been from Crimea, this "species" is generally considered a synonym
>of N. siculm ssp. bulgaricum.  However, I have kept the name under which it
>was received from a very knowledgeable taxonomist and plant explorer.  I will
>write to him and try to ascertain why he kept the name "meliophilum", perhaps
>he feels it is distinct enough to warrant separation from N. siculum ssp.

There are some likely reasons for the use of unfamiliar synonyms for plants 
collected and/or grown by people in the former Soviet Union (and China):
(a) They are deriving the names from their authorities, which are often 
floras and journals that were "out of the loop" of the system of 
publication and peer review in the West.
(b) They did not have the opportunity to travel and compare their material 
with specimens from other areas and have difficulty evaluating whether it 
is really different enough to warrant species status.
(c) They are aware that Western plant enthusiasts will pay good money to 
take a chance on "new to cultivation" species, and so they deliberately use 
unfamiliar synonyms to entice seed buyers to purchase species they would 
otherwise ignore.

Different countries have different "cultures" of taxonomic practice. For 
example, Japanese botanists tend to give taxonomic names to extremely minor 
variants that American botanists would never bother to name. Anyone who has 
tried to figure out what to call a Narcissus will have encountered the same 
problem between the British and Spanish views of the genus.

Taxonomy in general--the naming of categories and how we put things into 
them--is a field within linguistic anthropology, and I'm sure there's a 
paper, or even a dissertation topic, lurking in the world of botanical 

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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