Weirdness of ICBN

warren frank lamboy wfl1 at CORNELL.EDU
Wed Jan 3 15:45:34 CST 1996

Curtis Clark (and others write similarly)
>At 10:47 AM 1/4/96 -0700, Joe Laferriere wrote:
>>   There are also a lot of things assumed but not spelled out. I was
>>stunned last year when I submitted a paper to Taxon using the format I
>>was taught to use for citation of authors of infraspecific taxa, i.e.:
>>Planta hypothetica Smith var. erotica Jones.
>>I was told by the editors of Taxon that the "Smith" in the above example
>>is a violation of the ICBN. It took quite a bit of searching and
>>correspondence to convince me that they were right. The ICBN says that a
>>trinomial consists of a species name plus the abbreviation of the rank
>>(i.e. "var.") plus the infraspecific epithet. Jones, in the above
>>example, coined the entire trinomial not just the epithet. Smith had
>>nothing to do with the varietal name and the ICBN does not support
>>sticking his name in the middle of it. This practice is very common and
>>very useful, and I would support changing the ICBN to allow it. The fact
>>that it currently does not takes quite a bit of study to understand.
>I find this astonishing.  Is it new?  I've always done it the other way (as
>your example), and seen it done the other way.
>Curtis Clark
>Biological Sciences Department                     Voice: (909) 869-4062
>California State Polytechnic University, Pomona    FAX:   (909) 869-4396
>Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at

I like the rule just the way it is.   Since the author citation for a name
is intended to be a literature citation, only the authority for the (in
this example) variety is necessary.  Why would one also need the authority
for the species name?  It just takes up extra space.  I  have spent
inordinate amounts of time tracking names back into the old literature and
have never been hampered by the lack of an authority for the specific
epithet when I was trying to find the publication in which an infraspecific
name was first used.  Can somebody provide me an example where one needed
the authority for the specific epithet when one was trying to track down
the place of publication of the infraspecific epithet?  Many people may
have done the citation incorrectly in the past (although I don't recall
seeing this done in the botanical taxonomic literature), but that does not
justify continued incorrect use.

-  Warren

Warren Frank Lamboy
Dept. of Horticultural Sciences and
   USDA-ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit
Cornell University

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