Botanical nomenclature

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Botanical nomenclature is the formal, scientific naming of plants. It is related to, but distinct from taxonomy. Plant taxonomy is concerned with grouping and classifying plants; botanical nomenclature then provides names for the results of this process. The starting point for modern botanical nomenclature is Linnaeus' Species Plantarum of 1753. Botanical nomenclature is governed by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), which replaces the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). Fossil plants are also covered by the code of nomenclature.


Within the limits set by that code there is another set of rules, the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP) which applies to plant cultivars that have been deliberately altered or selected by humans (see cultigen).

History and scope

Botanical nomenclature has a long history, going back beyond the period when Latin was the scientific language throughout Europe, to Theophrastus (c. 370–287 BC), Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD) and other Greek writers. Many of these works have come down to us in Latin translations. The principal Latin writer on botany was Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD). From Mediaeval times, Latin became the universal scientific language (lingua franca) in Europe. Most written plant knowledge was the property of monks, particularly Benedictine, and the purpose of those early herbals was primarily medicinal rather than plant science per se. It would require the invention of the printing press (1450) to make such information more widely available. [1] [2] [3]

Leonhart Fuchs, a German physician and botanist is often considered the originator of Latin names for the rapidly increasing number of plants known to science. For instance he coined the name Digitalis in his De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes (1542).

A key event was Linnaeus’ adoption of binomial names for plant species in his Species Plantarum (1753). [4]

In the nineteenth century it became increasingly clear that there was a need for rules to govern scientific nomenclature, and initiatives were taken to refine the body of laws initiated by Linnaeus. These were published in successively more sophisticated editions. For plants, key dates are 1867 (lois de Candolle) and 1906 (International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature, 'Vienna Rules'). The most recent is the Melbourne Code, adopted in 2011. [5]

Another development was the insight into the delimitation of the concept of 'plant'. Gradually more and more groups of organisms are being recognised as being independent of plants. Nevertheless, the formal names of most of these organisms are governed by the (ICN), even today. Some protists that do not fit easily into either plant or animal categories are treated under either or both of the ICN and the ICZN. A separate Code was adopted to govern the nomenclature of Bacteria, the International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria .

Relationship to taxonomy

Botanical nomenclature is closely linked to plant taxonomy, and botanical nomenclature serves plant taxonomy, but nevertheless botanical nomenclature is separate from plant taxonomy. Botanical nomenclature is merely the body of rules prescribing which name applies to that taxon (see correct name) and if a new name may (or must) be coined.

Plant taxonomy is an empirical science, a science that determines what constitutes a particular taxon (taxonomic grouping, plural: taxa): e.g. "What plants belong to this species?" and "What species belong to this genus?". The definition of the limits of a taxon is called its 'circumscription'. For a particular taxon, if two taxonomists agree exactly on its circumscription, rank and position (i.e. the higher rank in which it is included) then there is only one name which can apply under the ICN. [6] Where they differ in opinion on any of these issues, one and the same plant may be placed in taxa with different names. As an example, consider Siehe's Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa siehei :

Flowers of Chionodoxa siehei, which can also be called Scilla siehei, or included in Chionodoxa forbesii or in Scilla forbesii Chionodoxa siehei closeup.jpg
Flowers of Chionodoxa siehei, which can also be called Scilla siehei, or included in Chionodoxa forbesii or in Scilla forbesii

In summary, if a plant has different names or is placed in differently named taxa:

Accepted names

Various botanical databases such as Plants of the World Online and World Flora Online make determinations as to whether a name is accepted, eg accepted species. If a name is not accepted, it may be because the name is a synonym for a name that is already accepted, and is listed as such. Another term is ambiguous to denote a name that is not accepted because its separate existence cannot be reliably determined. For instance, specimens that are damaged, immature or the necessary information or expertise ids not available. This can lead to abundances, multiple published names for the same entity. [13]

See also



Related Research Articles

Binomial nomenclature System of identifying species of organisms using a two-part name

Binomial nomenclature, also called binominal nomenclature or binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name, a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name.

Family is one of the eight major hierarchical taxonomic ranks in Linnaean taxonomy; it is classified between order and genus. A family may be divided into subfamilies, which are intermediate ranks between the ranks of family and genus. The official family names are Latin in origin; however, popular names are often used: for example, walnut trees and hickory trees belong to the family Juglandaceae, but that family is commonly referred to as being the "walnut family".

Taxon Group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms which have distinguishing characteristics in common

In biology, a taxon is a group of one or more populations of an organism or organisms seen by taxonomists to form a unit. Although neither is required, a taxon is usually known by a particular name and given a particular ranking, especially if and when it is accepted or becomes established. It is not uncommon, however, for taxonomists to remain at odds over what belongs to a taxon and the criteria used for inclusion. If a taxon is given a formal scientific name, its use is then governed by one of the nomenclature codes specifying which scientific name is correct for a particular grouping.

Geraniales order of plants

Geraniales are a small order of flowering plants, included within the rosid subclade of eudicots. The largest family in the order is Geraniaceae with over 800 species. In addition, the order includes the smaller Francoaceae with about 40 species. Most Geraniales are herbaceous, but there are also shrubs and small trees.

<i>International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants</i> Code of scientific nomenclature

The International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those "traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants". It was formerly called the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN); the name was changed at the International Botanical Congress in Melbourne in July 2011 as part of the Melbourne Code which replaced the Vienna Code of 2005.

<i>Scilla</i> genus of plants

Scilla is a genus of about 50 to 80 bulb-forming perennial herbs in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae, native to woodlands, subalpine meadows, and seashores throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle-East. A few species are also naturalized in Australia, New Zealand and North America. Their flowers are usually blue, but white, pink, and purple types are known; most flower in early spring, but a few are autumn-flowering. Several Scilla species are valued as ornamental garden plants.

Type (biology) Specimen(s) to which a scientific name is formally attached

In biology, a type is a particular specimen of an organism to which the scientific name of that organism is formally attached. In other words, a type is an example that serves to anchor or centralize the defining features of that particular taxon. In older usage, a type was a taxon rather than a specimen.

Scilloideae subfamily of plants

Scilloideae is a subfamily of bulbous plants within the family Asparagaceae. Scilloideae is sometimes treated as a separate family Hyacinthaceae, named after the genus Hyacinthus. Scilloideae or Hyacinthaceae include many familiar garden plants such as Hyacinthus (hyacinths), Hyacinthoides (bluebells), Muscari and Scilla and Puschkinia. Some are important as cut flowers.

Asphodelaceae family of plants

Asphodelaceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Asparagales. Such a family has been recognized by most taxonomists, but the circumscription has varied widely. In its current circumscription in the APG IV system, it includes about 40 genera and 900 known species. The type genus is Asphodelus.

Botanical name Scientific name for a plant, alga or fungus

A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP). The code of nomenclature covers "all organisms traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants, whether fossil or non-fossil, including blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria), chytrids, oomycetes, slime moulds and photosynthetic protists with their taxonomically related non-photosynthetic groups ."

Nomenclature codes or codes of nomenclature are the various rulebooks that govern biological taxonomic nomenclature, each in their own broad field of organisms. To an end-user who only deals with names of species, with some awareness that species are assignable to families, it may not be noticeable that there is more than one code, but beyond this basic level these are rather different in the way they work.

In botany, the correct name according to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN) is the one and only botanical name that is to be used for a particular taxon, when that taxon has a particular circumscription, position and rank. Determining whether a name is correct is a complex procedure. The name must be validly published, a process which is defined in no less than 16 Articles of the ICN. It must also be "legitimate", which imposes some further requirements. If there are two or more legitimate names for the same taxon, then the correct name is the one which has priority, i.e. it was published earliest, although names may be conserved if they have been very widely used. Validly published names other than the correct name are called synonyms. Since taxonomists may disagree as to the circumscription, position or rank of a taxon, there can be more than one correct name for a particular plant. These may also be called synonyms.

Asparagaceae family of plants

Asparagaceae is a family of flowering plants, placed in the order Asparagales of the monocots. Its best known member is Asparagus officinalis, garden asparagus.

Plant taxonomy is the science that finds, identifies, describes, classifies, and names plants. It is one of the main branches of taxonomy.

In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that applies to a taxon that (now) goes by a different scientific name, although the term is used somewhat differently in the zoological code of nomenclature. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies. This name is no longer in use: it is now a synonym of the current scientific name, Picea abies.

<i>Scilla</i> sect. <i>Chionodoxa</i> Section of plants in the genus Scilla

Scilla section Chionodoxa, known as glory-of-the-snow, is a small group of bulbous perennial flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae. Formerly treated as the separate genus Chionodoxa, they are now included in Scilla as a section. The section is endemic to the eastern Mediterranean, specifically Crete, Cyprus and Turkey. The blue, white or pink flowers appear early in the year making them valuable garden ornamentals. The common name of the group is based on the habit of flowering in high alpine zones when the snow melts in spring.

Taxonomic rank Level in a taxonomic hierarchy

In biological classification, taxonomic rank is the relative level of a group of organisms in a taxonomic hierarchy. Examples of taxonomic ranks are species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, domain, etc.

<i>Scilla forbesii</i> species of plant

Scilla forbesii, known as Forbes' glory-of-the-snow, is a bulbous perennial from west Turkey flowering in early spring. It is considered synonymous with Scilla siehei, known as Siehe's glory-of-the-snow, by some sources, although others distinguish them. It belongs to a group of Scilla species that were formerly put in a separate genus, Chionodoxa, and may now be treated as Scilla sect. Chionodoxa. After flowering, it goes into dormancy until the next spring. It seeds readily to form colonies.

Families of Asparagales Wikimedia list article

The Asparagales are an order of plants, and on this page the structure of the order is used according to the APG III system. The order takes its name from the family Asparagaceae and is placed in the monocots. The order is clearly circumscribed on the basis of DNA sequence analysis, but is difficult to define morphologically, since its members are structurally diverse. The APG III system is used in World Checklist of Selected Plant Families from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. With this circumscription, the order consists of 14 families with approximately 1120 genera and 26000 species.

Botanical Latin is a technical language based on New Latin, used for descriptions of botanical taxa. Until 2012, International Code of Botanical Nomenclature mandated Botanical Latin to be used for the descriptions of most new taxa. It is still the only language other than English accepted for descriptions. The names of organisms governed by the Code also have forms based on Latin.


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