A reminder about the naming of plants

Rodger Whitlock totototo@telus.net
Thu, 17 Jan 2013 10:10:44 PST
A common misconception among gardeners is that the botanists legislate name 
changes. While a few economically important genera are legislated in the ICBN 
to prevent changes due to priority considerations, all other names published in 
the botanical literature are _suggestions_. Their validity is determined in the 
long run by consensus, and many proposed names have fallen by the wayside over 
the years. It's more tragic than a tear-jerker romance: all those lovely names 
expiring from lack of love! The poor dears are, however, still valid names for 
the most part, having been properly published.

"Properly published" is just that and doesn't mean correct. The phrase means 
simply that it included a description (formerly had to be in Latin, but hasn't 
that requirement been dropped?) and the identity of the type specimen. It's a 
bureaucratic term, in other words, and had nothing to do with correctness or 
any other moral virtue.

What this means in practice is that gardeners who label their plants don't have 
to re-do labels as soon as a name change is published. Indeed, I would 
recommend taking your time and waiting until the botanists accept or reject the 
proposal by consensus.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Z. 7-8, cool Mediterranean climate

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