Lilium nomenclature

Jim McKenney
Fri, 09 Oct 2009 12:17:57 PDT
David Trout quoted Iain: "people will be free then as now to use names as
they feel... " and then added " For me the key phrase in that passage is
"free then AS NOW..." It occurs to me that, in the U. S. at least, we are
free to call anything anything we want"


Because this is a gardening list, we routinely commit the sin of omitting
the names of the authors of botanical names and the date of publication of
such names. And because this is a gardening list, I wouldn't want it any
other way.


However, this little flap we're having over the name of Lilium leichtlinii
is a good example of the occasionally confusing (contentious?) results of
that laissez faire attitude. In a technical paper the use of authors' names
and dates of publication will go a long way to preventing the confusion. 


In an informal setting such as this list, we're often left to guess what
people mean. I am always perplexed when someone takes personally a vigorous
rebuttal to something they have posted. My point of view is that it comes
with the territory: there are limitations on how we can express ourselves on
this list, limitations which sometimes introduce their own problems. The
failure to cite authors and dates is one (but I'm certainly not advocating
that we adopt that practice). Another is that italics are not available on
this list. There are many name-formatting issues which I would like to
discuss on this list, but I've avoided these because we can't use italics.
Without italics, any such discussions would be unintelligible or very clumsy
- and that would no doubt add fuel to an already potentially inflammable


These niceties exist and are appreciated in other, more formal venues simply
because they make it easier for us to say what we mean in an efficient way;
they make it easy for the reader to understand what we mean on first


It has always seemed to me that one of the great values of this list is that
we all bring our expertise to these discussions. And since all gardening is
local, it should come as no surprise that such expertise is not uniform.


As for David Trout's contention that " we are free to call anything anything
we want"  - if that were true, there wouldn't be libel lawyers. In any case,
it's a freedom to be exercised with great caution. I try hard to be up to
date in my naming practices, but it's easy to fall behind. In fact, there is
no fail-proof rule for the layman to follow in this regard. The editors of
popular gardening magazines were tripping over themselves in the past to use
the most current name changes. I'm sure this resulted in a lot of confusion
and resentment among some readers. My goal, to the extent that I have one,
is to match the granularity of name accuracy to the
context/audience/readership. And avoiding confusion or ambiguity is more
important than that. 

I hope I've done that in my postings to this list; and if in my enthusiasm
to pursue a particular point I occasionally fail to do so in the most
mannerly manner, I can only apologize and hope that readers will consider
the medium in interpreting the message. 


By the way, David, I’ve got loads of bulbs of Lilium majoense, L. catesbaei,
L. iridollae, and L. spemperviviodes - all named in the spirit of your
method – if you are interested in a trade. Funny, they all look a lot like
the roots of Ranunculus ficaria.       



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 

Editor PVC Bulletin 


Webmaster Potomac Lily Society







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