Plant names without authors

Discussion in 'Talk about UBC Botanical Garden' started by Daniel Mosquin, Jan 22, 2004.

  1. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The following was received via email:

    I am astounded, amazed, and disappointed that none of the plant names include the author of the name. A taxon minus an author is essentially worthless to the botanical world.

    I hope that I am wrong!
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hello,

    I'm going to assume you mean in particular the plants from UBC Botanical Garden that are featured in the photo galleries as opposed to when plants are mentioned in the plant identification or Hortboard forums.

    If that's the case, then yes, you are "wrong" in the sense that we do indeed have authors (the person who originally validly published the name of the plant in question plus authors for any basionyms) for the name of every plant photographed stored in our collections database. The author for the plant name can be looked up for research purposes by using the accession number that is posted with each photograph (when it is known - sometimes lost due to label theft or branch fall).

    Why not include the author with the plant name when posting photographs? There are at least a couple good reasons / excuses:

    I've always considered the UBC photograph galleries to be temporary until such time as we find funding to have an online collections database, in which case the photographs will then be associated with the plant name and / or accession number and / or individual plant and / or plant group and / or ? (by this I mean that Hamamelis mollis 'Goldcrest' can be a photograph associated with that particular name in the database, with the accession number if that is looked up, with the genus Hamamelis, and so on). Depending on the search, the photograph can accompany varying results. However, the author will always accompany the name in the online database, as it currently does on our internal database.

    Practicality is another reason. Information duplication that occurs from typing in information that can be cross-referenced elsewhere (even though it is only currently available internally or by researcher request) is time not spent on other things.

    ---

    I have to admit, though, that I hadn't expected comments regarding the use of botanical names without authorities - I thought people would be far more critical of not using common names for the photographs!
     
  3. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Personally, to me it is far more important to name the plant properly rather than to credit a
    person as having developed a particular plant. There have been times when certain plants were
    named by someone other than the person that raised the initial seedling, or perchance found a
    plant in the wild or documented a plant under a somewhat controlled situation. For botanical
    purposes it is important to cite the source but that cannot always happen as we do not know the
    actual source for many plants such as certain Japanese Maples, Dogwoods, Agapanthus and so
    on. To list "authors" is fine when we know who the author is but doing that is not a guarantee
    that the right person is being cited for developing that particular "species" or variety of plant.
    When in doubt do not ever mention a name in a definitive manner is still the best "rule of thumb"
    to go by.
     
  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    mr. shep - two different subjects. The original question was aimed at botanical names, which, when properly cited, consist of three parts - a genus, a specific epithet, and an author (the person who published the name in a scientific journal or text). For example, Mentha spicata L. (commonly known as spearmint). Mentha is the genus, spicata is the specific epithet and L. stands for Linnaeus, who first validly published the name. By publishing, it is meant that the plant was named in that particular combination, with a description of the plant based on the type specimen that is deposited in an herbarium. Botanical names rarely have anything to do with "development of plants", with the exception of new hybrid crosses between species or genera.

    Cultivated plants, though, such as Mentha spicata 'Variegata' or Rosa × odorata 'Mutabilis', do not have such rigourous standards. This can cause much confusion, as the same plant can be sold by different nurseries under different names. You are absolutely correct that it is far more important for nurseries and stores to market these cultivars with the correct name as opposed to mentioning who bred or selected these plants.

    So, to summarize:

    Botanical names:
    • Consist of a genus, a specific epithet and an author
    • Apply to plants in the wild or novel hybrid crosses between genera or species
    • Must be published in a scientific journal or text that is peer-reviewed
    • Are based on an individual specimen that is deposited in a herbarium
    • Are rigourously compliant with the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature

    Cultivated names:
    • Consist of a genus, perhaps a specific epithet and a cultivar name
    • Apply to plants selected from a wild population which exhibit superior horticultural traits, selected from a cultivated population with better horticultural traits, from deliberate breeding of many individuals of one species or multiple species, and much more - however, in almost every scenario, there is an element of human judgment or selection or propagation
    • Can be published informally in a nursery catalogue or not even published at all!
    • No requirement to deposit a plant specimen in an herbarium that exhibits the traits that give the plant its cultivated name
    • No requirement to mention the breeder or selector of the plant
    • Will hopefully one day meet the standards of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (this code has not been around as long as the ICBN)

    These are generalities, and there are exceptions to at least some of what I said.
     
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Daniel: I was just a little confused by the usage of the term "authors". I was thinking along the lines
    of cultivated names as you pretty well knew. Thank you for all of the information you provided.
     

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