Banana leaf canna nomenclature question

Tony Avent
Mon, 01 Nov 2010 11:36:48 PDT

Sorry to have de-railed your train of thought by answering a question before
it was asked, but I've always found reading minds much more enjoyable than
reading books.  This discussion reminds me of my favorite quote: "We have
not succeeded in answering all of our problems. The answers we have found
only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we
are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level
and about more important things."  (E. Kelley 1951)

I'll be following this thread to see where it leeds.  Keep up the good work
Mr. Holmes.

Tony Avent
Plant Delights Nursery @
Juniper Level Botanic Garden
9241 Sauls Road
Raleigh, North Carolina  27603  USA
Minimum Winter Temps 0-5 F
Maximum Summer Temps 95-105F
USDA Hardiness Zone 7b
phone 919 772-4794
fax  919 772-4752
"I consider every plant hardy until I have killed it least three
times" - Avent

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Jim McKenney
Sent: Monday, November 01, 2010 1:03 PM
To: 'Pacific Bulb Society'
Subject: Re: [pbs] Banana leaf canna nomenclature question

Tony wrote: “We published Canna 'Musafolia' as a cultivar in our 2000
catalog.  If someone published it before then, I'll be glad to defer.”


I’m trying to take this one step by step so-to-speak, but Tony has
anticipated a question I had reserved for a later stage in the discussion.


There are several complications involved here, and there is a good chance
that they might never be resolved except by fiat. 


The cannas in question are not evidently a single clonal cultivar.  One
source (see'Musaefolia/') lists several
forms which, for discussion purposes, has been called the (capital G)
Musaefolia Group. This term Group does not have taxonomic rank and does not
imply relationship or common ancestry. One salient problem in such a
situation is deciding which of the similar forms is the original, the first
for which the name was used.  


As things stand now, I don’t think the combination Canna ‘Musaefolia’ (or
any of the usual orthographic variants) without further description can be
said with certainty to apply to any of the presently known cannas. 


Another curious fact is that the etymology of the word Musa seems to be
unknown. It is not a word of classical Latin or Greek origin (unless you
accept that it is from the name of the physician of Augustus, Antonius Musa
; that explanation came after the word was coined. Incidentally, the brother
of Antonius Musa was Euphorbus after whom the genus Euphorbia is said to be


 The spelling musaefolia treats the word musa as a first declension feminine
word, but I don’t understand the basis for that. 


The spelling Musafolia confused me at first, but now that I know that musa
itself is not a Latin or Greek word, it makes sense. 


Musaefolia is not allowed under ICBN because it is made up of two words -
each capable of standing individually - joined into one; such words are now
automatically changed to compound words by using the appropriate combining
vowel (which in Latin will be i in most cases rather than a case ending) to
join the stem of the leading word to the following word. 



Here’s where I think each name stands:


Musaefolia: perhaps the original spelling used

Musifolia: the above spelling corrected to current ICBN standards for words
published under ICBN

Musafolia: a spelling which recognizes that musa is not of Latin or Greek


Are there others? 


I know that these discussions drive some people crazy, but some of us really
like to get into it.  And if nothing else, they illustrate how even the
seemingly simplest things have unexpected complexity.  It’s also nice, when
possible, to be precise. And when that is not possible, it’s nice to know
what the alternatives and possibilities are. 


Jim McKenney

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

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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