folk taxonomy

John McNeill johnm at ROM.ON.CA
Mon Nov 11 15:20:35 CST 1996

Frederick Peabody's suggestion that the "omission of the final '-ii' on
plant epithets is a common orthographic error that should be corrected
where ever it is found" is only partly true.  Like most matters of
orthography in the Botanical Code, the situation is a bit more complex.

The relevant Article is 60.11 :- "The use of a termination (for example
-i, -ii, -ae, -iae, -anus, -or -ianus) contrary to Rec. 60C.1 is treated
as an error to be corrected."  Apart from the slight complexity of a
Recommendation being given in this way the force of a rule, Rec. 60C.1
is not as simple as implied by Peabody.

First of all, the Recommendation only applies to "personal names ... used to
form specific and infraspecific epithets" - not, for example, to geographical
names, so that _Minuartia juressi_, from Mt. Juressus (Serra do Gerez) in
Portugal, is correct with the original ending "-i"

Secondly, "if the personal name ends in a vowel or -er," a single "-i" or "-ae"
etc. is added "appropriate to the sex and numbers of person(s) honoured", so we
have epithets correctly spelled "engleri", "hookerorum", "laceae" etc. (and NOT
"englerii", "hookeriorum" and "laceiae").

Only if the epithet is derived from a personal name ending in a consonant
(except -er), is the correction of an "-i" ending to "-ii" and an "-ae" ending
to "-iae" required. E.g. "wilsonii" (NOT "wilsoni") from Paul Wilson or any of
the many other male Wilsons, and "wilsoniae" (NOT "wilsonae") from Karen Wilson
- or, of course, wislizenii, from Friedrich (or Frederick) Adolph Wislizenus

Sorry to have to spoil Frederick Peabody's so delightfully simple assertion.


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

______________________________ Reply Separator
Subject: Re: folk taxonomy
Author:  "Frederick J. Peabody"
Date:    11-11-96 13:40

On Sun, 10 Nov 1996, Curtis Clark wrote:

> At 07:10 AM 11/10/96 -0700, JOSEPH E. LAFERRIERE wrote:
> >Many plants
> >in the SW US and NW Mexico bear the epithet "wislizeni"
> >which I have to look up every time I have to spell it.
> Being plants, their epithet is spelled "wislizenii", with the double "i". :-)
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Curtis Clark             
> Biological Sciences Department                     Voice: (909) 869-4062
> California State Polytechnic University, Pomona    FAX:   (909) 869-4396
> Pomona CA 91768-4032  USA                          jcclark at

The omission of the final "-ii" on plant epithets is a common orthographic
error which should be corrected where ever it is found.
F.J. Peabody

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