[Taxacom] Oeder’s intention

Algologia Algologia at telia.com
Tue Dec 16 11:48:02 CST 2008

Although algae were described and illustrated by numerous pre-Linnean  
naturalists such as Parkinson, Morison, Buxbaum, Dillenius, and  
Donati, it was in the monumental undertaking of the Flora danica that  
all categories of plants were depicted for the first time, since the  
date of publication of Linne's Species Plantarum that marks the start  
of botanical nomenclature (Portraits of Marine Algae, Mich.Univ.,  
2006). Flora danica was the major life work of Georg Christian von  
Oeder (1728-1791), and was planned to cover the wild plant life of  
Denmark, at that time extending all over the nordic countries facing  
the North Sea and Arctic Ocean. Oeder’s ambition was enormous and  
naturally took its time - over a century. Between 1761 and 1771,  
Oeder edited the first 10 fascicles, where a total of 600 plates were  
published - each plate usually covering one species. Only twenty-six  
algae were included, which can be compared to the 191 species listed  
in Oeder’s Enumeratio plantarum Florae Danicae (1770).

In presenting the various plants and the few algae in the first 3  
volumes (plates 1-540), Oeder compiled extensively information  
attributing the known species to their authors. In most cases he is  
using binomials or trinomials marking the epithets in two ways:  
either placing the epithet between commas and a different fond, or  
between parentheses and a different fond. New entities introduced by  
him are relatively few (45), and reading his 'protologues' it is  
apparent that he was not ready with his own observations when he  
decided to send the manuscripts to press. His descriptions show a  
gradation striving a Latin text and the newly accepted binomial  
classification. They can be categorized hierarchically, as a:

1. German phrase (Tab. 215. ‘Diese, mie mir deucht, neue, mit den  
Gattungen Lycopodium oder Fontinalis...’),

2. Latin phrase, non-descriptive (e.g. Tab. 540. ‘Fungus difficulter  
ad ullum ...’),

3. Latin polynomial lacking epithet after the generic name (e.g. Tab.  
478. ‘Bryum foliis striatis ...’),

4. Latin polynomial with epithet(s) after the generic name (e.g. Tab.  
472. Fig. 2. ‘Lichen leprosus glaucescens ...’),

5. Latin polynomial with one epithet after the generic name; the  
epithet being separated by comma from the rest of the description  
(e.g. Tab. 468. Fig. 3. ‘Lichen leprosus, albicans ...’),

6. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by commas (Tab.  
276. ‘Fucus, ramosissimus, ramis, ...’)

7. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by commas and a  
different fond (e.g. Tab. 356. ‘Ulva, sobolifera, coriacea ...’), or

8. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by parentheses  
and a different fond (e.g. Tab. 409. ‘Sisymbrium, (islandicum ?)  

In considering which of these taxa in Flora danica are validly  
published, Fucus ramosissimus (example 6 above) is a critical case,  
and over the years authors have treated differently this name. As the  
epithet ramosissimus was not similarly marked (like other binomials),  
many considered F. ramosissimus to be an invalid name, but the fact  
is that the ICBN does not require the names in a publication to be  
similarly marked - only to be marked using ‘...any typographical  
device which associates an epithet with a particular generic or  
specific name’ (Art.33.1 Ex.1). On the other hand, the lack of  
'double' differentiation raises the question if this was an  
intentional choice not to accept this name (Art. 34.1). The analysis  
above shows rather the opposite: Oeder’s intention was to provide  
Latin descriptions and binomials for his illustrated new species, but  
for some reason (presumably lack of time) he left many of his  
descriptions unfinished sending the entire manuscripts to press.  
Therefore, in considering which taxa in Flora danica should be  
accepted as validly published, the limits should be set by Art.33. Ex. 
1., which in fact distinguishes binomials from polynomials.

with best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

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