Botanical Author Names

Arthur Chapman arthur at ERIN.GOV.AU
Thu Nov 18 15:57:42 CST 1993

I was away when the banter re author names was rife on the net, but am now
back and feel that I should add my two bobs (OZ for 2 shillings in the old
currency and once worth a great deal to us convict types and probably only
about US2 cents today!) worth.
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It is good to see that I am not alone in my thinking.  When preparing the
Australian Plant Name Index I fought many a battle for the pre-ex authors
not to be included as part of the author's name.  As way of compromise for the
traditionalists I did add another field that included the author names in full
(I am told of much use to librarians searching for the publications) and
included the pre-ex authors.  I still fight that battle for the database.

Yes, Chris, that field includes: "J.B.P.A. Monet de Lamarck and Augustin
Pyramus DeCandolle" but as the authority for the name: only "Lam. & DC."
[a new problem in the database is the "&" when using SQL Plus!].  God forbid
if the Flora of Australia takes up such rediculous concepts as putting all
names in full - why not refer to the already published and constantly
updated, Australian Plant Name Index or the Kew List of Author Abbreviations or
some other authoritative publication if you are the one in x,000 readers who
needs to know that information!

Part of the original question,

        Randomly, I looked at Eucalyptus baxteri on ERIN's Taxon module and
        noticed that it is (Benth.) J.Black, whereas in the Flora Vol. 19,
        it is (Benth.) Maiden & Blakely ex J.Black.  Is there some reason
        for this difference?  Is the first an abbreviated authority while
        the second is the full one?

on whether to use '... ex'  does not seem to have been answered on the
net, so for what it is worth here are my comments (incidentally the MDBC for
those that have been wondering for all these months is the Murray-Darlin Basin
Commission - we love acronyms nearly as much as those in the USA):

The International Botanical Code allows for the optional use of 'pre-ex
authors'.  I believe they add NOTHING to the science of nomenclature
or to the ability to separate one name from another (after all that is the
reason we cite authors - not for aggrandisement!  The pre-ex authors
often being merely that!).

e.g. (Benth.) Maiden & Blakely ex J.Black - the 'authority' in question.

means that

1. George Bentham (i.e. Benth.) described the plant and called it
Eucalyptus santalifolia var. baxteri.

2. Maiden & Blakely said "possibly" over a beer or maybe in print it doesn't
matter - that "I think Bentham's var. baxteri is really a good species" or
maybe even "Bentham's var. baxteri is a new species" but never actually
published the combination "Eucalyptus baxteri".  Another possibility is that
Maiden & Blakely didn't do anything of the sort, but Black thought that they
were a great couple of guys and should be recognised, or he may of thought
that Maiden & Blakely regarded it as a new species.  Yet another possibility
is that Maiden & Blakely wrote "E. baxteri" on the specimen in the herbarium.
For the purpose of adding the information to the use of a name in a later
publication, and in particular one that gives no pretence at being a taxonomic
or nomenclatural work is, as implied by John McNeill, of little, if not
misleading value.

3. James Black came along in his Flora of South Australia and published the
combination: Eucalyptus baxteri.

I ask - does adding Maiden & Blakely add anything? I don't believe it does.
The purpose of adding an author to a name is to help one distinguish between
two species that have been given the same name (homonyms).  Each is more than
likely to have a different author [I do know of a couple of cases in which
an author used the same name twice for two different species].  The only other
reason I can think of for adding an author is to give a librarian or botanist
some sort of idea where he/she may look for a description.  Before the days of
Index Kewensis, the Australian Plant Name Index or any of a number of modern
day floras, this may have been important, but with today's indexes and
technology they add little for this purpose.  Taxonomy being a traditionalist
science, all sorts of redundancies have been, and are being, perpetuated long
beyond their useful shelf life.  The use of pre-ex authors is one of those and
the sooner it goes the better of and more succinct will be our science.  Those
that attend Nomenclature sessions of the International Botanical Congress and
make the Rules that appear in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
(arguably some of the most traditionalist of all) recognised this several
Congresses ago and thus made optional (at best) the use of the pre-ex
authors' names.

My recommendation is, if indeed you need to use the author names at all, to
follow the authoritative reference on names for Australia (i.e. the Australian
Plant Name Index [No. I'm not biased in the least]) and leave off the 'pre-
ex authors and use just '(Benth.) J.Black'.


Arthur D. Chapman  [Scientific Coordinator, Biogeographic Information, ERIN]

Environmental Resources Information Network     internet: arthur at
GPO Box 636, Canberra,                             voice: +61-6-2500 376
ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA                                  fax: +61-6-2500 360

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