[Taxacom] endings in -fer and -ger

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Mon Mar 3 06:54:42 CST 2008

From: "Richard Zander" Richard.Zander at mobot.org 
> Again, thanks to Richard Zander for allowing me to use his Taxacom
> account to post this question regarding Botanical Latin:
> In Latin there are endings -fer,-fera,-ferum, and -ger,-gera,-gerum,
> both meaning '-bearing' in Latin compounds. I see in my English
> dictionary that the comparable English ending is -ferous or -gerous.  I
> am seeing many species epithets in Latin in the masculine singular in
> -ferus and -gerus, after searching in the family Poaceae in the
> International Plant Names Index - these endings are perhaps mistaken
> applications of English endings to Latin ones.

> Since in Latin the -ferus and -gerus ending is not, as far as I can
> reference it, standard Latin, should these epithets be 'corrected' to
> -fer and -ger in the masculine singular?  Or has 'botanical usage'
> arisen to make -ferus and -gerus legitimate Latin endings in the
> masculine singular?

> Any assistance the readership may provide would be appreciated
> P. M. Eckel
> Patricia.eckel at mobot.org  


I never thought about this, but some tentative notes:

Merely asking the question is to suggest that the usage is widespread. This can be confirmed by some Googling. This shows it has been around for a long time: Linnaeus published an Agaricus umbelliferus (Sp.Pl. 1175). Also, it is not limited to plant names, but is found in animal names and medical terminology, as well.

It appear to be useful to make a distinction between names that started as new and those that are combinations based on a basionym. Example:
TROPICOS has an entry
"Habracanthus florifer Leonard
Annotation: as "floriferus", see Art. 60.11  "
Nevertheless, Google gives 2870 hits for "Habracanthus floriferus" and none for "Habracanthus florifer". Note that if this should be correctable, it would be through Art. 23.5 (for species) and/or 32.7 (32.5 in St.Louis Code), not Art 60.11

A combination based on a basionym is Phedimus floriferus (based on Sedum floriferum): the TROPICOS page is similar; Google is only 171 versus 22. Very explicit is http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?447121. 

So, it looks safe to state as a working hypothesis that an original spelling in a new name of -ferus (and -gerus) is not corrected. In new combinations (involving a change of gender), a correction to -fer (and -ger) is a different matter, but is not unambiguously established. 


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