[Taxacom] Authorities for trinomials

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Thu Aug 24 10:38:12 CDT 2006

I'd like to get the sense of Taxacomers regarding the practice of adding the authorities of the genus name to a trinomial in botany.
Here's my take:
I object to inserting the authorities of binomials after the species name in trinomials in addition to the authority of the trinomial. Art. 24 of the ICBN says the name of an infraspecific taxon is the name of a species and an infraspecific epithet, plus a connecting term; there is no mention of the authorities of the binomial part of the trinomial and the name of the genus may be one of two or more homonyms. First, you have no idea from inspection of the trinomial which author is appropriate for the binomial part of the trinomial. Even if you read the protologue and the author of the trinomial actually mentions the authority of the binomial, which he doesn't have to, that is a taxonomic decision on his part. If we just stick any old authority after the binomial we are making random taxonomic decisions. Second, a trinomial is the name associated with a particular type, not two types. Thus, we have three types, e.g.:
Aus bus var. bus Smith 1820
Aus bus var. bus Jones 1821
Aus bus var. cus Miller 1822
where the epithet var. bus was created for the species name Aus bus by publication of var. cus Miller.
It is a taxonomic decision to list Aus bus var. cus Miller under the earliest name, since var. cus Miller stands alone.
Third, why then isn't the authority of the genus cited in a binomial? Fourth, this is just plain bad practice and should not be encouraged because naïve users may well think that Aus bus var. cus Miller is somehow nomenclaturally associated with Aus bus var. bus Smith but not var. bus Jones.
Richard H. Zander
Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
richard.zander at mobot.org
Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/
and http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
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