Nomenclature: botanical tradition?

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Fri Feb 21 06:04:11 CST 1997

At 05:02 PM 02-20-97 -0800, Laurie Adams wrote:

>Can anyone out there give a lucid explanation of just what is meant in the
>Code by 'botanical tradition' - Art 62.1 of the Tokyo Code is no help at
>all! The problem for me came up recently when trying to ascertain the
>correct gender of Lotus and Melilotus; in the past (e.g. 'Flora Europaea')
>the first has been masculine and the second feminine; but now the Code
>specifically insists they are to be treated as masculine, whereas William
>Stearn's 'Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners" (1992) gives both as
>For some years I've looked forward to the time when nomenclatural 'lawyers'
>finally got their act together; but it seems taxonomic botany is still
>plagued by the 'nomenclatural-tail-wagging-the-taxonomic-dog' syndrome. I
>hasten to add that I'm a fervent believer in use of Latin/Greek
>nomenclature/description - but when are we going to have some simple,
>clear-cut, easily-remembered rules ALL can follow, without this appalling
>plethora of exceptions stemming from a slavish obsession with Middle-Age
>'tradition'? If we must have them, it would have been useful if there was
>produced a standard reference to gender of generic names; for instance,
>Dick Brummitt in his 'Vascular Plant Families and Genera' could have added
>gender to names; (perhaps in the next edition, Dick?).

Well, if the Code "specifically insists they are to be treated as
masculine", it sounds as though we HAVE gotten our act together, at least as
regards that particular instance.  The Code takes precedence over any other
reference.  Nonetheless, I agree that an indication of gender would be a
welcome addition to any standardized index of generic names.  While we're
wishing, may I add my pet desiderata?  An index to lecto- and
neotypifications of names of all ranks.  These can be extraordinarily
difficult to track down.

BTW, I interpret the "botanical tradition" clause to mean that if thereis a
clear, established way of doing things to which most everyone agrees, don't
go changing it just for the sake of compulsive/obsessive technical uniformity.

Thomas G. Lammers
Department of Botany                     Classification, Nomenclature,
Field Museum of Natural History          Phylogeny and Biogeography
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive       of the Campanulaceae
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
fax:        312-427-2530

"... what could possibly be easier or more beautiful than 'Campanula'?  What
affectation more gratuitous and silly than 'bell-flower'?"  -- R. Farrer

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