nomenclature again

John McNeill johnm at ROM.ON.CA
Wed Dec 4 15:53:03 CST 1996

On 2 December, Karol Marhold wrote:

>I have two questions from the plant nomenclature for which I would
>much appreciate your help, advice, or opinion:
>1/ if plant species name is illegitimate, is the name of variety
>      described "within" this name illegitimate as well?
>2/ is it possible to accept as a validly published species name
>      the name for which no description is provided in the
>      protologue, when author at the same place provided the
>      description of the typical variety (subspecies)?

N.B. In what follows, the _underscore demarcation_ implies italics
(e.g. scientific names)

Dear Karol:

As you know, prior to your posing the two questions on plant
nomenclature (above) to the TAXACOM list, you had sent me e-mail
seeking my advice on specific examples of the more general questions
you posed to the TAXACOM subscribers.  I was too much involved in
preparing my part of the "electronic publication" on bionomenclature
(advertising plug: see to
get back to you immediately.  Let me do so now.

Specific examples are always much easier to assess than hypothetical
cases, so I hope the TAXACOM members will bear with me as I deal with
your particular examples:

_Hieracium lampromegas_ Zahn (1911) is, apparently, validly
published, despite the fact that Zahn did not provide a description
for the species, not because of his providing descriptions for each
of his four included subspecies (including the typical subsp.
_lampromegas_), but because Zahn, in citing "var. _scitulum_
Woloszczak" as a synonym of his typical subspecies [but it could
equally have been of any of his subspecies], provided "a reference to
a previously and effectively published description or diagnosis of a
species or infraspecific taxon" (_ICBN_ Art. 41.3 (_b_)).  In other
words, the act that made Zahn's _Hieracium lampromegas_ illegitimate
(because you tell me that var. _scitulum_ is based on the validly
published species name _Hieracium scitulum_ Woloszczak) also achieved
its valid publication!

This is important, because as a result, all four included subspecies
are also validly published, and their epithets are available for use
in legitimate names (cf _ICBN_ Art. 55.2 and 58.3).

Turning to the more general question, based on this, that you posed
to the TAXACOM subscribers (question 2 above), I know of no basis in
the Code for accepting as validly published a species name solely on
the basis of a description provided for its typical subspecies,
particularly when there are other subspecies included at the same
time.  I think the provisions of _ICBN _Art. 41.3 make this clear.

I believe the only reason anyone might think this possible is because
some botanists seem to have felt that the Aristotelian logical
hierarchy of biological taxonomy and nomenclature is not maintained
at the infraspecific level.  A work such as Fernald's edition of
Gray's Manual of Botany exemplifies this: no typical infraspecific
taxa are recognized - by implication, the species is the typical
infraspecific taxon.  The Code (_ICBN_) rejects this philosophy
explicitly in Art. 25.1.  The species, being the sum of all four
subordinate taxa that Zahn recognized, cannot be described by the
descriptions of any one of those four subordinate taxa.  Even seeking
an analogy in the provisions for _descriptiones-generico-specifica_
in Art. 42 does not give support for this point of view, because, of
course, there is more than one infraspecific taxon - as would
normally be the case.

With regard to the first question posed to the subscribers to TAXACOM
(question 1 above), the general response that infraspecific epithets
can be used, is, of course, correct.  Illegitimacy is a concept
peculiar to the Botanical Code (and some of us wish it had never been
conceived) but it is restricted to certain specific breaches of the
rules, most notably, those relating to later homonymy and
nomenclatural superfluity.  The species name, _Hieracium lampromegas_
is illegitimate (because the inclusion of var. _scitulum_ as a
synonym is "definite inclusion" (_ICBN _Art. 52) of the type of the
earlier and available _H. scitulum_).  Zahn's various subspecies of
_H. lampromegas_, e.g. subsp. _krivanense_ Zahn are not, in
themselves, illegitimate - they are just never available for use
because the species name is illegitimate.  As _ICBN_ Arts. 55.2 and
58.3 make clear, the epithet _krivanense_ can always be used, where
the rules permit, for the legitimate name of a taxon.  Moreover, as
the analogous Art. 55 Ex. 1 establishes, the epithet takes priority
(at subspecific rank) from its first publication by Zahn in 1911 not
from its later use as a legitimate subspecific name.  [As the
Botanical Code does not recognize zoological "co-ordinate status",
priority at any other rank, e.g. that of species, would, of course,
be the date of first publication at that rank].

I will repond to your less general question on _Hieracium debile_


From: John McNeill, Director, Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park,
      Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2C6, Canada.
      Tel.: 416-586-5639      Fax: 416-586-8044
      e-mail: johnm at

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