name for new genus

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Wed Feb 24 08:11:38 CST 1999

Michael Vincent wrote:

> > Someone wanted to name
> > a genus after Billie Turner at the University of
> > Texas. There was already a Turnera, so the plant was
> > named Billieturnera. With all do respect to Dr. Turner,
> > has done me many kind favors over the years, I think
> > this is rather silly.
> >    As an aside, Dr. Turner called me on the telephone
> > several years ago informing me he intended to
> > name a new species after me. It took me ten minutes
> > to convince him not to.
> This coming from someone who named plant species after Star Trek
> (fictional TV show) characters... That is more than a little
> inconsistent!
> What difference does it make if a taxon is named after a person,
> place, or morphological character, as long as it is named and
> identifiable?  Does the fact that Billieturnera is named
> Billieturnera make it any less a valid genus?
> We have a lot of work cut out for us just in recognizing and naming
> the world's biota before it dissappears.  Why waste time in such
> quibbling?
> Dr. Michael A. Vincent, Curator    TEL: 513-529-2755
> W.S. Turrell Herbarium (MU)        FAX: 513-529-4243
> Department of Botany
> Miami University
> Oxford, Ohio 45056 USA
> Email: Vincenma at

Maybe we should adopt a set of rules such as used by the company that
manufactures the PEZ candy dispensers:  they will not allow dispensers
to be based on living people (in fact, I think they use only fictional
characters).  My understanding is that they do this to avoid the very
kinds of problems that are being discussed here.

If I recall correctly, there is a genus of orchids named Harrysmithius
(or something like that).  And, if what I was told by my herp teacher
some years ago is correct, a genus of salamanders was named Oedipus with
such specific epithets as rex, complex, simplex, etc.  I see such
practice as frivolous and rather demeaning for a discipline that wishes
to be viewed as legitimate science (but, perhaps we should take our
lessons from the physicists, who love creative and amusing names for
subatomic particles and other interesting  phenomena).  The best names
are those that convey something about the organism, if at all possible.
I do not mean to suggest that honorofics are inappropriate, but to be
honest, Quercus michauxii says nothing about the plant other than that
it is an oak.

Yes, we have better things to do than to "quibble" about such matters.
But remember, we must consider not just the legitimacy of what we are
doing, we must also be aware of the appearance of what we are doing (as
in, we must avoid even the appearance of evil).

Richard J. Jensen              TEL: 219-284-4674
Department of Biology      FAX: 219-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         E-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN  46556

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