Help with Resnova pilosa/Hyacinthaceae
Thu, 05 Jun 2008 09:45:43 PDT
On 2 Jun 08, at 10:23, Richard wrote:

> How in the world do we keep up [with name changes]?

Personally, I think it's a lost cause for gardeners to try to keep 
up, at least for the near future. Botanical taxonomy as a field of 
scientific endeavour gives every evidence of being in a state of 
active flux, thanks to cladistic analysis of the results of DNA 
sequencing. (We may be approaching the point where plant 
identification according to the new paradigm is impossible without 
doing DNA analysis. Portable backpack DNA sequencer, anyone?)

IMHO (in my humble opinion) it is better for gardeners -- for such we 
are -- to stipulate a single reference and use that consistently 
until, in a few generations, the dust will have settled and our 
descendants can then move to whatever names have survived the test of 

I also remind everyone that taxonomy is not legislative; it's 
opinion, and as long as a name is validly published, it's a valid 
name. There is no requirement to try to follow every graduate student 
who overhauls some well-known group of plants in order to justify his 
PhD. In the fullness of time, the botanical community will reach a 
consensus on which renamings make sense and which do not.

There's also some strange logic among the taxonomic community that I 
have serious doubts about. The example that comes to mind is the 
assertion that if we have two taxa, A & B, and B is clearly descended 
from A, but also clearly distinct, B *must* be a sub-taxon of A.

This logic is an extreme expression of the idea that the hierarchy of 
botanical taxa should match the evolutionary hierarchy. In my opinion 
(which being free, is worth exactly what you paid for it) this 
overlooks the view of evolution not as a simple tree but as a thicket 
of interlacings where groups of plants separate, and may later 
rejoin. It also flies in the face that A & B may be intersterile and 
meet all the other criteria normally used to define "distinct taxa."

If a small population B of taxon A becomes isolated from the main 
distribution, it has every right to evolve in its own way into 
something else while A itself remains stuck in the evolutionary mud, 
so to speak.

"Freedom to Evolve!"

The rallying cry of the revolutionary plant!

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

More information about the pbs mailing list