Nomenclature: botanical tradition?

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Fri Feb 21 10:37:32 CST 1997

My Latin dictionary lists both Lotus and Melilotus as feminine.  Both
names appear to be based on Greek names for plants.  I would provide the
Greek spelling, but my text editor does not support the Greek alphabet.

As far as the I.C.B.N. is concerned, I do not have a current copy.  My old
copy (Seattle 1969) states that the gender of the classical element that
was used to form the name is to be adopted.  Since both Melilotus and
Lotus have been ascribed feminine gender, both classically and
botanically, feminine terminations should be used.  Hence we have
Melilotus alba.  But what about Lotus corniculatus and the other epithets
in the genus Lotus with masculine endings?  Does the current Code make
some provision for allowing for generic-epithet gender mismatches based on
the weight of "tradition"?

Frederick J. Peabody
Associate Professor of Botany
University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD  57069  USA
fpeabody at

On Thu, 20 Feb 1997, Laurie Adams wrote:

> Dear Taxacomers,
> 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
> feminine!
> 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?).
> Laurie Adams
> Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
> Australian National Herbarium
> GPO Box 1600, Canberra
> ACT 2601, Australia
> Ph: (06)2465123 Fax: (06)2465249
> E-mail: l.adams at

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