Botanical nomenclature

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For terminology used in describing plants, see Glossary of plant morphology. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_0

Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_1

It is related to, but distinct from taxonomy. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_2

Plant taxonomy is concerned with grouping and classifying plants; botanical nomenclature then provides names for the results of this process. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_3

The starting point for modern botanical nomenclature is Linnaeus' Species Plantarum of 1753. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_4

Botanical nomenclature is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), which replaces the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_5

Fossil plants are also covered by the code of nomenclature. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_6

Within the limits set by that code there is another set of rules, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) which applies to plant cultivars that have been deliberately altered or selected by humans (see cultigen). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_7

History and scope Botanical nomenclature_section_0

Botanical nomenclature has a long history, going back beyond the period when Latin was the scientific language throughout Europe, to Theophrastus (c. 370–287 BC), Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD) and other Greek writers. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_8

Many of these works have come down to us in Latin translations. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_9

The principal Latin writer on botany was Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_10

From Mediaeval times, Latin became the universal scientific language (lingua franca) in Europe. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_11

Most written plant knowledge was the property of monks, particularly Benedictine, and the purpose of those early herbals was primarily medicinal rather than plant science per se. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_12

It would require the invention of the printing press (1450) to make such information more widely available. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_13

Leonhart Fuchs, a German physician and botanist is often considered the originator of Latin names for the rapidly increasing number of plants known to science. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_14

For instance he coined the name Digitalis in his De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes (1542). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_15

A key event was Linnaeus’ adoption of binomial names for plant species in his Species Plantarum (1753). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_16

In the nineteenth century it became increasingly clear that there was a need for rules to govern scientific nomenclature, and initiatives were taken to refine the body of laws initiated by Linnaeus. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_17

These were published in successively more sophisticated editions. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_18

For plants, key dates are 1867 (lois de Candolle) and 1906 (International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature, 'Vienna Rules'). Botanical nomenclature_sentence_19

The most recent is the Shenzhen Code, adopted in 2018. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_20

Another development was the insight into the delimitation of the concept of 'plant'. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_21

Gradually more and more groups of organisms are being recognised as being independent of plants. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_22

Nevertheless, the formal names of most of these organisms are governed by the (ICN), even today. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_23

Some protists that do not fit easily into either plant or animal categories are treated under either or both of the ICN and the ICZN. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_24

A separate Code was adopted to govern the nomenclature of Bacteria, the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_25

Relationship to taxonomy Botanical nomenclature_section_1

Botanical nomenclature is closely linked to plant taxonomy, and botanical nomenclature serves plant taxonomy, but nevertheless botanical nomenclature is separate from plant taxonomy. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_26

Botanical nomenclature is merely the body of rules prescribing which name applies to that taxon (see correct name) and if a new name may (or must) be coined. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_27

Plant taxonomy is an empirical science, a science that determines what constitutes a particular taxon (taxonomic grouping, plural: taxa): e.g. "What plants belong to this species?" Botanical nomenclature_sentence_28

and "What species belong to this genus?". Botanical nomenclature_sentence_29

The definition of the limits of a taxon is called its 'circumscription'. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_30

For a particular taxon, if two taxonomists agree exactly on its circumscription, rank and position (i.e. the higher rank in which it is included) then there is only one name which can apply under the ICN. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_31

Where they differ in opinion on any of these issues, one and the same plant may be placed in taxa with different names. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_32

As an example, consider Siehe's Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa siehei: Botanical nomenclature_sentence_33

Botanical nomenclature_unordered_list_0

  • Taxonomists can disagree as to whether two groups of plants are sufficiently distinct to be put into one species or not. Thus Chionodoxa siehei and Chionodoxa forbesii have been treated as a single species by some taxonomists or as two species by others. If treated as one species, the earlier published name must be used, so plants previously called Chionodoxa siehei become Chionodoxa forbesii.Botanical nomenclature_item_0_0
  • Taxonomists can disagree as to whether two genera are sufficiently distinct to be kept separate or not. While agreeing that the genus Chionodoxa is closely related to the genus Scilla, nevertheless the bulb specialist Brian Mathew considers that their differences warrant maintaining separate genera. Others disagree, and would refer to Chionodoxa siehei as Scilla siehei. The earliest published genus name must be used when genera are merged; in this case Scilla was published earlier and is used (not Chionodoxa).Botanical nomenclature_item_0_1
  • Taxonomists can disagree as to the limits of families. When the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) first published its classification of the flowering plants in 1998, Chionodoxa siehei would have been placed in the family Hyacinthaceae. In the 2009 revision of their classification, the APG no longer recognize the Hyacinthaceae as a separate family, merging it into a greatly enlarged family Asparagaceae. Thus Chionodoxa siehei moves from the Hyacinthaceae to the Asparagaceae.Botanical nomenclature_item_0_2
  • Taxonomists can disagree as to the rank of a taxon. Rather than allow the Hyacinthaceae to disappear altogether, Chase et al. suggested that it be treated as a subfamily within the Asparagaceae. The ICN requires family names to end with "-aceae" and subfamily names to end with "-oideae". Thus a possible name for the Hyacinthaceae when treated as a subfamily would be 'Hyacinthoideae'. However, the name Scilloideae had already been published in 1835 as the name for a subfamily containing the genus Scilla, so this name has priority and must be used. Hence for those taxonomists who accept the APG system of 2009, Chionodoxa siehei can be placed in the subfamily Scilloideae of the family Asparagaceae. However, a taxonomist is perfectly free to continue to argue that Hyacinthaceae should be maintained as a separate family from the other families which were merged into the Asparagaceae.Botanical nomenclature_item_0_3

In summary, if a plant has different names or is placed in differently named taxa: Botanical nomenclature_sentence_34

Botanical nomenclature_unordered_list_1

  • If the confusion is purely nomenclatural, i.e. it concerns what to call a taxon which has the same circumscription, rank and position, the ICN provides rules to settle the differences, typically by prescribing that the earliest published name must be used, although names can be conserved.Botanical nomenclature_item_1_4
  • If the confusion is taxonomic, i.e. taxonomists differ in opinion on the circumscription, rank or position of taxa, then only more scientific research can settle the differences, and even then only sometimes.Botanical nomenclature_item_1_5

Accepted names Botanical nomenclature_section_2

Various botanical databases such as Plants of the World Online and World Flora Online make determinations as to whether a name is accepted, eg accepted species. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_35

If a name is not accepted, it may be because the name is a synonym for a name that is already accepted, and is listed as such. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_36

Another term is ambiguous to denote a name that is not accepted because its separate existence cannot be reliably determined. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_37

For instance, specimens that are damaged, immature or the necessary information or expertise ids not available. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_38

This can lead to abundances, multiple published names for the same entity. Botanical nomenclature_sentence_39

See also Botanical nomenclature_section_3

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: nomenclature.