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Re: why scientists don't just give up the names battle

  • Subject: Re: why scientists don't just give up the names battle
  • From: "Eduardo Goncalves" <edggon@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2001 11:15:43 -0500 (CDT)

Cīmon, guys...

   I know you must be driving crazy with all the names changing all the 
time, but I donīt think we should try to freeze an evolving science. I know 
sometimes it is painful when you have to change your concepts, but it is 
part of the life.
   The advent of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature can be 
considered an important event in Botany, because Botany looked like the 
Tower of Babel before it. The Code were designed to keep stability of names, 
so we use the concept of priority. The correct name is the first effectively 
published. The circunscription of names can change, but they follow rules 
that can be understood if you want.
   Some people think it would be great if we could use the "easiest" name, 
instead of the earliest. I agree it would make some things easier, but we 
would implode the stability. Who has to decide when something has to change? 
What if someone is not happy? Can He/she change it again? Believe me: If 
there we had not the Code, the names would change even more...
   Letīs face it. We donīt have to write in our scientific books that 
primitive humans had dinossaurs as pets just because almost everybody in 
world really thinks it is true (blame Fred Flintstone!). Any misconception 
should be corrected, even when more than half of the humans think it is 
true. And what should be considered "majority"? I donīt think Chinese people 
call Epipremnum as pothos. They will be considered majority in anything 
soon! Is plant taxonomy for the whole Mankind or just for Americans?
   We are paid to keep the names well applied, so we do it.  If you want 
imutable names, donīt use Linnean binomials! Call your plant Sliurneht, or 
Grumpflilit or even Catiripapo... If you want to be scientific (that is what 
you are doing when you say Pothos or Calla) you have to follow the law 
(i.e., the Code). People has used this pseudoscience to sell plants. 
Scientific names can rise the prices, because they give the impression that 
they know exactly what they are selling, but it isnīt true. If plant sellers 
are not able to offer a correct Linnean name for the plants they sell, they 
SHOULD NOT USE IT, or they are just fooling people.
   I can give you an example: Letīs suppose you have bought something called 
Calla, a pink Calla. You can see some information about it on internet. It 
says Calla is a circunboreal genus with only one species that use to grow in 
bogs. So you killed your only Zantedeschia rehmanii treating it like it was 
Calla palustris... Thatīs the problem in having horticultural names being 
used like this...
   Many of you in Aroid-L know that I am a plant taxonomist that do not love 
all the aspects of the linnean taxonomy, mainly because it is not efficient 
in dealing with evolving things. However, it is the best way we have to 
describe biodiversity, so I still use it.
   I agree that some of plant taxonomists change names for some weird 
vanity, but most of us are working hard to make the overwhelming diversity 
more understandable. Do not blame us. Nature itself was already pretty 
confused when we arrived with the tags! It is easy when you consider a few 
plants you have in your garden, but try to face the hell in the wild...

                        Nomenclatural cheers,


>From: Lester Kallus <lkallus@earthlink.net>
>Reply-To: aroid-l@mobot.org
>To: Multiple recipients of list AROID-L <aroid-l@mobot.org>
>Subject: why scientists don't just give up the names battle
>Date: Sat, 7 Jul 2001 22:40:14 -0500 (CDT)
>I'd like to offer a differing opinion on the common versus scientific
>name.  Professionally, I run into frustrations with bacteria names some of
>which are on their third name in the 21 years I've been
>working.  Nevertheless, I do this professionally and so can keep up with it
>as long as they tell me ahead of time.  Fortunately, the lay public doesn't
>use these names so there's no problem.  If they did, we might have to
>reevaluate our position on changing the names.
>Periodically, I've read letters here indicating that some plant I had never
>heard of had been renamed to another genus that I also had never heard
>of.  This didn't affect me and won't affect most other folks.  There's no
>problem if few know about it.  It's the same as when a bacteria is renamed
>by the microbiological and medical community.  The problem does happen,
>though, when it's a plant that's commonly grown.
>If the vast majority of people misidentify Pothos and only a small number
>of botanists and horticulturists can accurately identify them, how complex
>would it be to tell the botanists and horticulturists to find a new name
>for the true Pothos and to allow the previously misidentified Pothos to
>correctly assume the name?  I suspect it would be less complex to
>re-educate the botanists and horticulturists than it would the rest of the
>"uneducated" public.
>Unfortunately, though, the botanists are too stubborn and insist that the
>rest of the world follow their lead.  Come on now - if it's been
>misidentified for 200 years and if few people would recognize the true
>Pothos - why not just change the name of the true Pothos and let everyone
>be right?  Could it possibly be people taking pleasure in calling others 
>          Les

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