Arum - naming a Group

Dylan Hannon
Mon, 09 Apr 2007 00:01:53 PDT
I think it is worth pointing out here that any of us is free to accept
or reject any validly published name for any given plant. If one
prefers to use Amaryllis over Hippeastrum, for whatever reasons, it is
not technically "wrong". The same goes for recognizing the Liliaceae
in its old, broad sense versus the modern partitioning of this family
into a dozen or more "new" families [some of them are very old family
concepts!]. Some formal changes, as carried by the scientific
journals, are accepted by the botanical community while others are
not. The difficulty is that picking and choosing among the various
classifications can require as much energy or more than growing the
plants themselves.

As most growers have deduced, taxonomy has its trends and periods
where certain approaches or styles are favored, only to be supplanted
by others in later years or generations. Laypersons are often
confounded by the trappings of botanical classification and it is well
to keep in mind that there are, as might be expected,  subjective
elements at work. In other words, methodologies may be rigorous and
even 'empirical' but decisions on where to draw lines between what we
call genera and species are a personal decision at some level, even
for the scientist. Today the classification scheme itself- important
as it is to us-  is almost an afterthought while sorting the mysteries
of phylogeny takes center stage.  A further example is the recent
'splitting out' of quite a few new genera from Eurasian Scilla,
Muscari, etc. Whether these names are new or resurrected and dusty,
the pattern of progressive understanding of phylogeny and the renaming
of these groups remains the same.

I wholeheartedly agree with John about variation in species being
often underappreciated or unrealized and would go one further in
suggesting that such variation is one of the most appealing levels of
horticultural endeavor. We are fortunate that some dealers purvey
various species from multiple localities, e.g. Mike Salmon (Colchicum,
Narcissus, etc.) and Summerfield's (mainly South African
Hyacinthaceae). A look at Graham Duncan's Lachenalia book confirms
this idea-- just look at L. trichophylla and L. mutabilis! Not all
novel forms of known varieties are "garden improvements" and in fact
many cultivars are clones of direct wild origin.

The Groups concept as described here is new to me and I wanted to add
that it should not be confused with similar concepts commonly met with
in the botanical literature and good plant books. They are often
termed "alliances" or "complexes" or even "groups" and refer to
natural groupings of genera or species with distinctive similarities.
Sometimes they reflect formal taxa or categories (subfamilies,
subgenera), or they may be informal and used as points of discussion.


On 4/8/07, John Grimshaw <> wrote:
> Nobody is disbarred from naming any botanical/horticultural entity so long
> as the correct procedure is followed. So far as I'm aware (Graham Rice will
> correct if I'm wrong) the procedure to publish a group name requires its
> publication with a description of the characters it covers, preferably as
> comprehensively as possible. An example of this is the publication of the
> Galanthus nivalis Sandersii Group in our book 'Snowdrops', p.90-93, which I
> know Diane can look up, where the yellow variants of Galanthus nivalis are
> comprehensively discussed and the covering Group name instituted.
> John Grimshaw
> Dr John M. Grimshaw
> Sycamore Cottage
> Colesbourne
> Nr Cheltenham
> Gloucestershire GL53 9NP
> Tel. 01242 870567
> Easter Monday 9 April, Arboretum Weekend 15-16 September
> Gates open 1pm, last entry 4 pm
> website:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Diane Whitehead" <>
> To: "Pacific Bulb Society" <>
> Sent: Sunday, April 08, 2007 5:19 PM
> Subject: Re: [pbs] Arum - naming a Group
> >  John Grimshaw described three instances where a Group name is used
> > for plants.
> >
> > Who decides that a Group name is appropriate?  In the case of a genus
> > with a regulating body, must it be done officially?  Could a nursery
> > owner or an enthusiastic amateur decide to name one?
> >
> >
> > Diane Whitehead
> >
> >
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