pbunch at CTS.COM
Tue Jul 17 06:46:50 CDT 2001
One place I see common names being used in at least a semiformal way is in
lists of protected or special status species as defined by various
jurisdictions. This is affecting usage in communications about such species
at least within the jurisdiction of the agency for which communications are
prepared. If one submits a document with an "incorrect" common name you can
be sure it will receive a scathing comment by some zealous reviewer.
This has raised some PC issues. For example, Ambrosia pumila should
probably be referred to as a "ragweed." However, since it is a sensitive
species it has been labeled as the "San Diego ambrosia :-) In terms of
trying to make direct translations from Latin, what in heavens name are
they going to do with Clitoria mariana?
On Monday, July 16, 2001 07:23, Thomas Lammers
[SMTP:lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU] wrote:
> At 09:04 AM 7/16/01 -0700, you wrote:
> >I have my students learn both the formal taxonomic names as well as
> >names for all plants we study in lab and in the field.
> Yeah, I did, too, until I started getting, "But that's what we call it,
> back home!" each time I pointed out an "incorrect" common name on a
> quiz. With no authoritative source for common names, how can I tell a
> student that "hooter nuts" is not the common name for Amphicarpaea
> > it is incumbent on us as taxonomists to make our non-taxonomist
> >colleagues aware of both the utility and the shortcomings of common
> I tell students that common names are like The Little Girl Who Had a
> Curl, Right in the Middle of Her Forehead: "When they are good, they are
> very very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid." Everyone in the
> USA pretty much has an idea of the sort of plant to which common names
> such as "oak" or "maple" refer. But what's a bluebell or a mayflower? I
> think all of us use a mix of the two: unambiguous common names when they
> exist, scientific names when they don't.
> > One thing that tends to disenfranchise our "clients" is that
> >when scientific names change, the common names that have been in use for
> >so long are made obsolete or create confusion. A classic example in my
> >favorite plants was the recognition that the type specimen of Nuttall's
> >oak (Q. nuttallii) belonged to a different species. So, Quercus
> >nuttallii is now a synonym for the taxonomically correct Quercus
> >texana. A suggested common name for this species is Texas red oak,
> >rather than Nuttall's oak. But, Texas red oak is a name that has been
> >used for at least three different species depending on the manuals
> >consulted. Many of my colleagues in the International Oak Society are
> >bewildered by this because Nuttall's oak has such a long history of use
> >in trade circles (arboriculture, nurseries, lumber). When I prepared
> >the treatment of the red and black oaks of North America for the Flora
> >North America, I adopted the taxonomically correct nomenclature
> >(treating Nuttall's oak as Quercus texana), but am now having second
> >thoughts about the wisdom of doing so.
> I would argue that the common name for the species is still Nuttall's
> Oak. Why not?
> >In any case, I believe we do need to listen to our non-taxonomist
> >colleagues and the general public. We want them to have an appreciation
> >of what we do, but we also must provide a system that is in some sense
> >"user-friendly" for those who are not primarily interested in the
> >evolutionary relationships among the plants they see and grow.
> But you'd be surprised how many folks are interested to know what's
> to what. "I didn't know Box Elder was a maple!" Of course not. If you
> rely on common names, you think it's related to Buxus or Sambucus. "But,
> yeah, that malkes sense; the 'seeds' are the same." [We'll work on
> morphology next.]
> Common names that ARE common names -- i.e., part of the language used by
> and recognized by the average speaker of the language, I have no beef
> with. But it seems patently silly to create a parallel system of
> English language names (e.g., "yellow-green bristly sedge") where none
> exist. That's where a lot of this is heading and I think we need to
> educate our clients to the point where they see the silliness and waste
> it, too.
> Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
> Department of Biology and Microbiology
> University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
> Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA
> e-mail: lammers at uwosh.edu
> phone: 920-424-1002
> fax: 920-424-1101
> Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and
> biogeography of the Campanulaceae s. lat.
> "Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
> -- Anonymous
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