Botanical Names & Italics
Tue, 16 Sep 2008 13:50:18 PDT
There have been a couple of good submissions on this topic which for some readers might be spoiled or confused by the failure of some software incoming to correctly reflect text out going with ? in the place of etc, etc. This text is in OUTLOOK EXPRESS.

If the following is of any use I will be glad to have helped, leaving aside the issue, if there is one, of European versus American protocols, I imagine your publication is read by and available to a much wider audience therefore the issue or generalisation stated sometimes as two countries separated by a single language might resonate for some. However, the language of Botany is not English of whatever stripe or any other, it is in Latin and thereby avoids national sensibilities really rather well and the convention which exists for the international community which may be reflected in your readership / membership would expect to see written botanical references in the conventional manner. i.e. Latin, which is NOT restricted to Europeans of whom only a small proportion are speakers of Standard English, e.g. programmes versus programs, colour versus colour, autumn versus fall, etc. 

For my book on "Lilies and their Allies" I am sticking strictly by the conventional presentation of botanical names as well as their association, where, if and when it occurs, with that of horticultural names, these two are quite specifically written differently to avoid confusion by readers who not unreasonably expect what they read or is presented for reading to reflect conventional accuracy. One of the most egregious examples of poor presentation is where a plant's Latin identity is present with both parts of the Bi-nomal in upper case / capital letter e.g. Lilium Japonicum Thunb. using no italics but bold type such as is often seen in glossy colour catalogues.

Examples as follows:  a. Lilium nepalense  D.Don  can also be written for references if these are thought to be required as

                                 b. Lilium nepalense  D.Don in Mem. Wern. S. Edinburgh 3. 412 (1821);
                                     Syn. L. ochroleucum  Wallich ex Baker, op cit. 231 (1874) pro.syn.- Lilium nepalense var. nepalense 
                                     Baker in J. RHS. 4. 41 (1831)

Where a species has produced a selection or form = forma it needs to be shown differently as another contributor has already correctly pointed out, e.g. a. Lilium longiflorum 'Holland's Glory' a strain developed from Lilium longiflorum f. takeshima  The lower case letter ' f'  is an acceptable abbreviation for the botanical term 'forma' which like subsp. and ssp. are acceptable versions for the term 'subspecies' along with 'cv.' the latter abbreviation denoting 'cultivar', all of which are not italicised and an hypothetical example would perhaps be Lilium hypotheticum subsp. carolinianum var. yanktsii f. pendula alba cv. 'Joe's Nightmare'

There is a further point which might be of help, when an authority for a validly published name is cited, there has evolved a convention whereby some names can be abbreviated, but this isn't set in concrete, e.g. L. or Linn. for the Swedish inventor of the binomial system Carl Linnaeus, sometimes incorrectly written as Karl Linnea. Thunb. for Thunberg, etc etc.

Lifting examples from Indexes in "Lilies" which might help, hopefully, are as follows and if considered in the context of the fact that where there are, roughly, some 120 to 140 taxa = distinct botanical plants either at species or subspecies level there are over 600 synonyms being names genuinely properly published but owing to the International Rules on Nomenclature the name first validly published by date is the name a plant MUST be known by in botanical literature. Perhaps the most inconvenient and inappropriate example of a botanical name I have come across if that of Lilium pensylvanicum Ker-Gawler (1805) for a plant   Ker-Gawler mistakenly took to have come from North America because Mark Catesby 'sent it' from there when in fact Catesby got it from a Russian in Alaska, its homeland in fact being central & eastern Russia when, to correct his mistake, he re-published the name Lilium dauricum Ker-Gawler (1809). Such a adjustment might be accepted then however even the Russians fully accept the name Lilium pensylvanicum, presumably through gritted teeth, because that is the correctly validly published name unless another were to turn up with an earlier date, so far I at least haven't found it. Using Lilium dauricum may be convenient or lax but it is never the less incorrect. I think in your journal, your efforts would be greatly appreciated, and admired by your peers, if you are rigorous in your use of correct nomenclature as it will then come to be trusted and be relied upon for your efforts to achieve accuracy. However much you try there will always be occasions when someone will bring to your attention an example or two of earlier published names in order to let you make appropriate adjustments, these take place in almost every Genus of botanical plants so are bound to happen.

This 'note' has taken longer, much longer, than intended so thank you for baring with me, I only hope I have got it right. Should you have any other questions you might want to put to me, please feel free and do so direct if that's helpful, meantime best of luck with your worthy endeavour, would that everyone was as willing to be so meticulous. You might also like to Google up IPNI which is a site jointly run between RBG Kew and the Gray at the Arnold, type in the family if known and or the genus name this will 99.9 % of the time provide you with much of what you need, including synonymy where it exists.


I am using the free version of SPAMfighter for home users.
SPAMfighter has removed 18060 spam emails to date.
Paying users do not have this message in their emails.
Get the free SPAMfighter here:

More information about the pbs mailing list