ICBN too

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Mon Jul 16 10:25:03 CDT 2001

Michael Vincent wrote:

> I always tell my students that scientific names are very necessary and
> indispensable, since they is the only accurate way to communicate around
> the world about any given plant.

I hope no one misunderstood my comments on having students learn common
names.  In no way am I suggesting that common names are adequate.  As Tom
Lammers and Mike have noted, the emphasis must be on scientific names - and I
drill that into my students' heads throughout the semester.

> Let's not go down the common name path...things get too confusing,
> especially given the large numbers of plants around the world.  And, in
> spite of complaints from "the general public", Latin binomials are not
> confusing.

I agree that binomials are not confusing - and when asked what a plant is, I
am often at a loss for a common name because I "think" of them as taxonomic
entities.  But, most people do not think that way.

And, in reply to Tom Lammers' point that retaining Nuttall's oak as the common
name for Quercus texana shouldn't be a problem, I agree.  But, the code does
recognize that sometimes name changes are so disruptive to communication that
conserving an "invalid" name is the best solution.  Nuttall's oak and Quercus
nuttallii are so indelibly etched in both the scientific literature and
popular literature that it might have been best to "let it be."  Perhaps
Quercus texana should be declared nomen ambiguum and Quercus nuttallii should
be reinstated.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with communicating via common names, as long
as there is no question about what taxon is being discussed.  Common names
such as Schneck's red oak, Nuttall's oak, Shumard's red oak, and scarlet oak
(and there are numerous other examples in other taxa) are unambiguous.

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

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