Infageneric ranks in botany

Arthur Chapman taxacom2 at ACHAPMAN.ORG
Sun Sep 25 15:50:53 CDT 2005


The earliest I have found for sections is 1760 by Boehmer in Ludwig and Boehmer, Def. Gen. Pl. for Gnaphalium, but there could be earlier, especially using the section symbol [The sort of double linked S which I don't think there is an ASCII code for]. Haworth in his Misc. Nat. used sections extensively for Aizoaceae, and de Candolle in the Prodromus used subgenera, sections and series.

For series, the earliest I have found is by de Candolle in the Prodromus (begining with Volume 1 in 1816). de Candolle used subgenus, sections and series in many of his publications, and for Australia, Ferdinand von Mueller and Bentham both regularly used sections and Bentham, also both subsections and series.

As early as
          1760, Boehmer in Def. Pl. Gen. used section
          1806, Persoon in his Synopsis Plantarum used subgenus.
          1816, de Candolle in the Prodromus used series
          1825, de Candolle in the Prodromus used subseries.
          1830, G. Don in Loudon's Hortus Britannicus used subsection

In the 18th amd 19th Centuries, symbols were often used to indicate sections and series before actual words were used. It was not always clear as to the level meant, as sometimes the section symbol was used above the series symbol and at other times, vice versa. Some also used division and subdivision (see for example Farwell, Amer. Midl. Nat. 12: 269 (1931)), or Gruppe (e.g. Diels in Engl. & Prantl, Nat. Pflanzenfam. 1(4): 241 (1899)). Other symbols were often used (double section symbols, asterisks (single or multiple), or letters (a, b; A. B.; Aa, Ab; etc.)
Much of this information was obtained from searches done using the Australian Plant Name Index (Chapman 1991) and <>.  There may well be earlier examples using non-Australian taxa.

Hope this helps

Arthur D. Chapman
Australian Biodiversity Information Services

>From Kevin Thiele <K.Thiele at CBIT.UQ.EDU.AU> on 24 Sep 2005:

> Does anyone know when infrageneric ranks (subgenera, sections,
> subsections,
> series, subseries etc) were first used in botany?
> Linnaeus originally had only 5 ranks (variety, species, genus,
> order~family
> and class). By the middle of the 19th Century sections and series seem
> to
> have been used fairly regularly.
> So, who started this trend? And are there any definitive statements in
> the
> early literature as to why they were introduced - two possible reasons
> are,
> to reduce the number of included species in a group for mnemonic
> purposes,
> and to reflect a growing understanding of natural groupings.
> Cheers - Kevin Thiele

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