Re [3] Nomenclature: botanical tradition?

Jacques Melot melot at ITN.IS
Sat Feb 22 00:18:54 CST 1997

Toutes les explications necessaires concernant le cas de Lotus et Melilotus
se trouvent dans Taxon (Synopsis des Propositions pour le Code de Berlin,
Taxon, 35, p. 802-803. 1986), dont je reproduis une partie, ci-dessous.

Noter que le Code decide autoritairement du genre a adopter non pas dans un
exemple, mais dans le corps de l'Art. 76.1 (Berlin):
76.1. A generic name retains the gender assigned by its author, unless
[...]. Lotus and Melilotus must be treated as masculine.
Le cas Lotus et Melilotus a donc ete vote initialement comme partie d'un
nouvel article.

[Taxon, 35, p. 802:]
(197) Proposal to replace Rec. 75A.1 and examples with:

"A generic name retains the gender assigned to it by its author, unless
this is contrary to botanical tradition. Botanical tradition usually
consists of maintaining the classical gender of a Greek or Latin word, when
this was well established. The following names, however, must be treated as
feminine in accordance with botanical custom, irrespective of classical
usage or the author's original usage: Adonis, Diospyros, Hemerocallis,
Orchis, Stachys and Strychnos. Lotus and Melilotus must be treated as

"Ex. 1 Cedrus and Fagus are feminine like other classical tree names,
despite their -us ending; this is also true of Rhamnus, despite the fact
that Linnaeus gave it masculine gender. Eucalyptus is also feminine, a
neologism retaining the gender assigned by its author. Phyteuma (neuter),
Sicyos (masculine), Erigeron (masculine) are other cases where botanical
usage has reestablished the classical gender despite another choice by
Linnaeus. The classical gender of Atriplex varied (feminine in Columella,
neuter in Pliny) and Linnaeus' choice of feminine stands."

Comments: This proposal was inspired by study of Parkinson's proposal (5,
Taxon 33: 348. 1984) and incorporates some examples from him, as well as
all in the current text. It introduces the concept of botanical usage as
overriding classical usage for stated cases (feminine Adonis, Diospyros,
etc., adding masculine Lotus and Melilotus from Parkinson). The idea that
gender, as in Phyteuma (neuter) and Sicyos (masculine), rests not on the
classical gender but on botanical usage is new. It is supported by Stearn's
point (Bot. Latin p. 6. 1973) that "Botanical Latin is . . . a modern
Romance language . . . , derived from Renaissance Latin with much
plundering of ancient Greek, which has evolved, mainly since 1700 and
primarily through the work of Carl Linnaeus ...." Therefore, we should be
prepared to solve gender problems by preserving botanical usage and neither
impose classical usage (that may have fallen) nor Linnaean usage (often in
error, particularly in assigning feminine to names ending in -ma and neuter
to names ending in -on).
Note (Nicolson) added at the last minute: Dr. E. G. Voss, Secretary of the
General Committee (who gets copies of all Committee reports) specifically
objected to imposition of masculine gender for Lotus and Melilotus.
Linnaeus (1753) used both feminine (7 species) and masculine (4 species)
for Lotus and his synonymy reveals prior mixed usage. Greek used masculine
but Latin used feminine (with

[p. 803:]

occasional masculine, perhaps because of Greek influence). Voss (in litt.)
commented that Latin usage is complicated by the fact that Lotus (or Lotos)
was applied to several plants, apparently more frequently using masculine
for the waterlily and feminine for the legume. My study of Latin usage
(Georges, Ausf=FChrl. Lat.-Deutsches Handw., 14th ed., 1976) revealed that
feminine was used for five senses (including waterlily and legume) but
masculine was only sometimes used.
In view of the continuing controversy (Stearn, A. W. Smith Gardener's Dict.
Pl. Names, ed. 2. 1975, uses feminine but Encke and Buchheim, Zander Handw.
Pflanzennamen, ed. 10. 1972 uses masculine and the Flora Europaea
compromised, using Lotus as masculine and Melilotus as feminine) of these
genera, it is urgent to have the gender of Lotus and Melilotus specified in
the Code. Those who oppose masculine gender for one or both should not
oppose the proposal but should propose an amendment.

Jacques Melot, Reykjavik
melot at

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