Ranunculus revision?

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Fri, 20 Jul 2007 08:44:57 PDT
Jan Agoston's  post seems to imply that the genus Ficaria as a split from 
Ranunculus is a name used primarily by botanists in the former Soviet 
sphere of influence. Am I understanding this correctly? (I hope so.) When I 
Googled Ficaria verna and F. kochii, I found several scientific papers, 
mostly having to do with medicinal compounds, using this name. It's 
possible they were relying on Russian taxonomy, where we often find splits 
that are not generally recognized elsewhere. SImilar disagreements exist in 
Chinese and Japanese floras (e.g., Ohwi's Flora of Japan).

Someone once told me (I don't know whether this is true) that Soviet 
botanists were encouraged by the government, their employer, to propose 
numerous new taxa for ideological reasons. I recall that in linguistics 
there were ideological pressures on academics to produce results that would 
not have passed international peer review; perhaps the situation in botany 
was similar. There's also a tendency in some areas that aren't controlled 
so intensively to stress the uniqueness of the regional flora, perhaps 
reflecting a theme of regional cultural uniqueness (and, presumably, 
superiority); for instance, claims that a population of humans is 
biologically different from other populations, or that its language is 
unrelated to any other. Taxonomy (the "folk" kind, not the scientific kind, 
but there's probably an intellectual connection) is in fact studied as part 
of the subdisciplines of semantics and lexicography.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

At 11:06 AM 7/20/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>Those of you who are gardeners first and armchair taxonomists second (if at
>all) might be asking a question or two about these names Ranunculus ficaria
>and Ficaria verna.
>I know I would have been, except that it just happens that I ran across a
>discussion of these names recently and I now understand what, from a
>taxonomic point of view, is happening.
>Most of us, as gardeners, know about the rule of priority: basically, the
>earliest validly published name is the one to use.
>If (as it is) Ranunculus ficaria is a validly published name, and if (as it
>is) the first validly published name for the species in question, what
>happened to the rule of priority? How does Ranunculus ficaria become Ficaria
>verna? If the first published species name was ficaria, wouldn't ficaria
>trump verna?
>It would, except for one of the basic principles of botanical nomenclature:
>tautology in the genus and species names is not allowed. In other words, if
>you establish a genus Ficaria, you cannot have a species in that genus named
>ficaria. You then use the next validly published name in line, so-to-speak.
>I have not seen a modern treatment of Ranunculus, but if a genus other than
>Ficaria is used for the species in question, the species epithet goes back
>to ficaria.
>Jim McKenney
>Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where global warming isn't so
>much a concern as local drying.
>My Virtual Maryland Garden http://www.jimmckenney.com/
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