Saturday, August 27, 2011

Errata, Taxonomy

I know the Errata posts are not the most fascinating, but I feel sort of obliged -- if I'm going to be responsible for spreading bad information, the least I can do is post the good information when I find what it is. Also I figure some of y'all are nerdy enough to care about these things for their own sakes.

So. In the most recent round of name changes, we have:

Maranta leuconeura kerchoviana.

Maranta leuconeura kerchovEana --> M. l. kerchovIana. It's probably a bad assumption, but I've been assuming that the "correct" version of names is probably the one that shows up most often in Google searches, at least when we're talking about spelling variants. "Kerchoveana" is also pretty widespread, and I'm not positive it's wrong, but it seemed worth changing anyway, since I was already there to update all the posts to link M. l. kerchoviana to the M. l. erythroneura profile, having realized that the odds are very, very slim that I'll ever write a separate profile for M. l. kerchoviana.

Bryophyllum tubiflorum.

Kalanchoe tubiflora has become Bryophyllum tubiflorum.

Aloe 'Doran Black.'

The eternal alternation between Aloe 'Doran Black' and Aloe 'DorIan Black' is once again in a 'Doran' phase, and this had better be the last time I have to change this, goddamn it.

Anthurium crystallinum 'Mehani.'

I've decided I'm pretty sure that Anthurium 'Mehani' is actually A. crystallinum 'Mehani,' as certain other websites claim.

Plectranthus verticillatus.

Plectranthus nummularius got switched to P. verticillatus. I've been calling it nummularius for so long that I don't expect I'll be able to remember this, but we'll see. I pretty much never shut up about this plant, so if nothing else I got a lot of practice typing "verticillatus:" who knows, maybe it'll help me remember.

Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum.'

Polypodium aureum 'Mandianum' and 'Blue Hare' have been changed to Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum' / 'Blue Hare.' This is also going to be a tough one for me to remember.

Albuca bracteata.

Ornithogalum bracteatum and O. longibracteatum are now obsolete names for Albuca bracteata. This is also going to be impossible for me to remember, as Ornithogalum has been the name for as long as I've been reading plant books, and has a bit better memory hook ("ornitho" means "bird;" I don't know what the "-galum" part means) than Albuca (no clue, on the meaning of "albuca"). But I will do my best.

Vriesea imperialis.

Alcantarea imperialis becomes Vriesea imperialis, which was long overdue; most people were well ahead of me on that one already.

Justicia scheidweileri.

I'd mentally switched names already, and was using the correct name in the new posts, but I finally went back and changed Porphyrocoma pohliana to Justicia scheidweileri in the old posts.

Astrophytum ornatum.

Finally, in one spot I referred to Astrophytum ornatUM as A. ornatA: ornatum is correct, and this has been changed.

I'm aware of certain other incorrect plant names being used here at PATSP, but I can only stand to change names for just so long before it becomes unbearably tedious. Also: I just don't think some of the changes can be correct (Dracaena marginata --> D. reflexa); in other cases it would be incredibly difficult to go back and make the changes to every post in which the plant appears (Dracaena deremensis --> D. fragrans); and sometimes I just find the new name aesthetically displeasing and am hoping that they'll change it back even though I don't think they will (Synadenium grantii --> Euphorbia umbellata).

Now go and get on with your Saturday.


Pat said...

Ob com would be more accurate for describing me. Good stuff!

Ornithogalum means "bird's milk". This was an Ancient Greek expression closest to our "hen's teeth", meaning a non-existent or fantastical thing. I have no idea what Albuca means though I have seen some.

Curiously, bird's milk does, sort of, exist. Pigeons feed their young on a secretion from preening glands specially adapted to the task.

Pat said...

I couldn't go to bed without finding out so now I know that PlantZAfrica say that: "The genus name Albuca is from albus meaning white, or albicans, becoming white, thus referring to the flowers." Albuca batteniana However, according to Lewis and Short's A Latin Dictionary, online at, albucus means the asphodel (still Asphodelus ramosus but now in the Xanthorrhoeaceae.) or its bulb. Hence Albuca means a female asphodel. The resemblance of the two plants is obvious.

I can't remember if I have already mentioned Plectranthus scutellarioides is the new name for Coleus/Solenostemon. I would ignore that one if I were you.

mr_subjunctive said...


I've picked up the Solenostemon/Plectranthus change somewhere, if not from you, and I do ignore it, with a great deal of cheer and enthusiasm. The way I see it, the best I am willing to give to the botanical world is the memorization of one new name per plant per decade. I switched over from Coleus blumei to Solenostemon scutellarioides at some point in the last four or five years, so the taxonomists will just have to wait on me a while.

Emily said...

But Dorian Black is more literary/poetic! I much prefer it Dorian, and will continue to call it that despite my mother's correcting it to Doran repeatedly...

The River Otter said...

What the what??? I have known "Albuca bracteata" as ornithogalum caudatum for years, but I usually call it pregnant onion.

Anonymous said...

I well understand the scientific importance and implications of the changes in taxonomy, and I appreciate your desire to keep the information here up to date.

Taxonomic names are scientific statements about the genetic/evolutionary relationships among taxa (species, genera, and other taxonomic categories). Developments in DNA sequencing technology have made it much easier these days to determine these genetic/evolutionary relations, and with every change in our rapidly increasing understanding the taxonomic names of plants must be changed to reflect our changed understanding.

But it's widely understood that, because horticultural names are the names that are used in commerce, every change in the horticultural names comes at a cost. Joe gardener who wants to buy Coleus will all too often go to another garden center if he can't find what he wants on the C table. So the garden center owner needs to think twice before changing her labeling, even if she's had time to keep up to date about the Coleus/Solenostemon/Plectranthus changes. In commerce, every change in labeling comes at a cost.

Horticultural names are not the same as taxonomic names, because they have this requirement for stability that the taxonomic names don't. So while it's valuable, in your plant portraits, to mention the taxonomic names as well, where they differ from the horticultural names, it's not so valuable to replace the horticultural names every time the taxonomic name changes.