Vernacular concepts

Ron at Ron at
Wed Mar 2 17:06:23 CST 2005

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Manning
Subject: Re: Vernacular concepts

(2) Without meaning to beat a dead horse, the fact that vernacular names
are sometimes more stable than scientific ones does not give them greater

 I have always heard this, but don't personally "know" if it is accurate.  I
am big on subspecies and think all vernacular names should be associated
with those organisms.  At our web site we have a common names list for US /
CA butterflies listing all subspecies and common names at that level.
At the trinomial level, virtually nothing changes name wise.  When a
subspecific taxon is associated with a different species or even species and
genus, that subspecific epithet (and its common name) remains unchanged.
The instability in scientific names lies mainly in shifting species between
genera - the genus species combinations.   This results in the also annoying
need to change spellings to match latinized genders.

But what about stability in vernacular names.   I have been making myself
not post to various of the butterfly list serves over the misuse of the
vernacular name Spring Azure.   That name belongs specifically to the taxon
ladon.  Up until very recent history, it was held that only one species of
the genus Celastrina was here in North America - ladon.   Thus this long
standing common name - Spring Azure.   But in the last 10 to 15 years it has
now been found that this genus here is actually a complex of cryptic
species.   We are well toward figuring it all out - several species have
already been well accepted among both the scientific and hobbiest
communities.   The problem is that a great many people are using the name
Spring Azure for these other species.  So there is enormous instability
among this genus relative to vernacular names and the resultant confusion.
As was said before, both vernacular and scientific names are only credible
when properly applied to the correct organism.

I bet there are lots of cases where vernacular names are just as unstable as
scientific names and many more cases where vernacular names are simply
wrongly applied - a Rosa is a Rosa and many things may be a "cedar", but
only a Juniperus communis var. depressa is that Ground Pine.

Ron Gatrelle

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