Botanical endings (was Acis/Leucojum)

Jane McGary
Wed, 31 Mar 2004 09:45:52 PST
At 08:31 AM 3/31/2004 -0800, Mary Sue wrote:

>I made an Acis page on the wiki using the information you have provided to 
>this group. Hopefully you will look it over and edit it and make any 
>changes that are necessary to have it be correct. And if it shouldn't be 
>Acis tingitana I hope someone else will correct the spelling for me. This 
>one never was published under Acis so I couldn't look at the IPNI site to 
>check on the spelling and how endings are decided has always been a 
>mystery to me.

Jim McKenney speculated that the name, if derived from the proper name of 
the youth beloved by the nymph Galatea, should be masculine. However, it 
could also be from Greek akis 'arrow point, dart', which is feminine (hence 
tingitana, etc.). The tepals of Acis flowers are, of course, sharply 
pointed, and the buds are particularly like a leaf-shaped projectile point.

Endings are decided based on the grammatical gender of the genus name, 
which may be masculine, feminine, or neuter. Usually species names get 
Latin endings even if the genus name is Greek, but one sometimes sees Greek 
endings -- I don't know if this is an older practice that has now been 
eliminated by the Code of Biological Nomenclature. However, it is good to 
look up the endings on species names (or "epithets," as they are called) 
rather than guessing, even if you know some Latin and Greek. Botanists even 
in the old days were not always sure of the grammatical gender (different 
from biological gender!) of the names they employed and sometimes made 
mistakes. In addition, the gender of a few Greek nouns varied from dialect 
to dialect. Moreover, some species epithets are not adjectives but nouns 
(e.g., Narcissus bulbocodium) and do not undergo agreement. If the species 
name is a possessive you need to look it up to find out if the honoree is 
male (e.g., nuttallii, lewisii) or female (eastwoodiae), or plural (Crocus 
baytopiorum, where the species is a possessive [genitive] plural noun, not 
a neuter singular adjective).

Hope this helps.

Jane McGary
Editor, NARGS

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