In my column today in Pacific Northwest magazine I probably foolishly took on the changes happening in the world of botanical Latin...what do the scientific changes mean for gardeners? I'm sure I oversimplified in trying to figure out what is going on - and I believe it's still evolving...current changes may well be the thin edge of the wedge in moving toward using more English and less Latin.
Seattle gardener Daniel Sparler wrote a kind, clever and illustrative correction....with a helpful link which I wish I'd found before I wrote my column. Here's Daniel's take on what's going on in the world of nomenclature.
Your gardening column in Pacific NW is always the first thing I turn to when I open the Sunday paper, but today I fear you may be leading readers down the proverbial primrose path with your comments on botanical Latin. Your first paragraph, on the 2011 meeting of the IBC relaxing its rules, is right on target, but you head into the swamp and trip over a skunk cabbage in the second. It’s only the description (of roughly 100 words) of new species that may now be provided in English (botanists may also opt to stick with Latin). The actual name, the binomial (or “tongue-twisting trinomial” as you put it), must still be treated as Latin. So that smelly bog plant is still Lysichiton americanus.
Here’s the scoop straight from the horse’s mouth (or, if you will, from Equus ferus caballus): “By next year the technical descriptions accompanying the scientific names for new plant species will no longer have to be exclusively in Latin. English will be acceptable. And botanists proposing new species will no longer be required to publish a paper in hard copy—an electronic version will do. Latin, however, will still be used for the two-word, scientific species names.” (http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/media-releases/latin). So don’t force that cup of hemlock (Conium maculatum) on botanical Latin. It ain’t dead yet!
I’ll close by including a photo of Tricyrtis latifolia blooming today in my garden (above, left) Exquisite, isn't it? And much easier to grow than the other yellow "toad lilies" -- what a horrible common epithet. Now, isn't its Latin name much more mellifluous?
Happy weeding to you,
I feel sure that Daniel understands these changes better than I do. And, yes Tricyrtis latifolia sounds lovely, but the common name, toad lily, is the one most of us will remember.....Thanks, Daniel, I really appreciate your perspective and knowledge, as well as your good humor, on this confounding (to many of us) subject.