Spanish iris etc

Jim McKenney
Sun, 23 Jul 2006 08:35:02 PDT
I'm enjoying this discussion of the western Mediterranean bulbous irises,
and it's interesting to see a sort of consensus emerging. 

However, there is one point on which I want to be a stickler. I would
strongly object to calling this group the Xiphium group. Why? Because the
word xiphium is the name of a particular species within the group. 

Consider that, unlike zoological nomenclature, formal botanical nomenclature
is averse to tautological names at the generic-specific ranks. Prohibitions
against this are written into the code. In zoological nomenclature, a name
such as Bison bison bison is allowed (this is our North American bison in
its type subspecies). If the bison were a plant, the name would have to be
changed. If the name Bison were kept for the genus, the name of the species
would have to change to a different name. 

I don't know if in naming groups above the rank genus the use of the
specific epithet of an included species is prohibited by the code. Perhaps
someone who has easy access to a copy of the current code can check this
out. But prohibited or not, it strikes me as a poor practice to invite
ambiguity when it is so easily avoided. 

That's why I suggested the name Xiphions. No, that's not a misprint for
Xiphiums.  Note also that this is English (or English in form - I used the
plural to make that clear): it's not meant to be understood as a Latinized
Greek taxon. Of course, it's nothing more than an Anglicization of the
existing taxon Xiphion. 

I appreciated the comments of jlubelover. 

But I have to quibble with the assertion that 
> I. xiphium = Spanish iris

I'm holding out for the narrower point of view that the term "Spanish iris"
refers uniquely to the garden cultivars of Iris xiphium. Although it's a
hairbreadth distinction, I don't think the name properly applies to the wild
forms of Iris xiphium. In particular, it's not appropriate to call a species
native to many north African and southwestern European countries "Spanish"
(these countries include, according to some accounts, Italy - in particular,
Sicily and even some mainland Italian sites). Nor is there any reason to
suppose that the cultivated Spanish irises, taken as a group, correspond to
any wild population of Iris xiphium. 

Note that I don't expect horticultural names to meet the same criteria of
appropriateness, relevance, geographic accuracy or even implied
relationship. Fantasy, metaphor, illusion, downright lies and misconceptions
are all part of the tradition of horticultural names. In my book, they're
like vernacular names: let sleeping dogs lie! 

And so with that in mind I'm not about to start to campaign to change the
name "English irises". 

One more thing: when Mary Sue wrote " If not I suggest Jim McKenney does it
since he is the one who first complained about the choice of words."

But I wasn't complaining, I was promoting disambiguation. 

And I'll be glad to help with redoing the page. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where crepe myrtles are
blooming and giving the area a sort of cotton-candy-carnival atmosphere. 

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