Thread: Latin Hubris
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Old 11-16-2005, 01:04 PM
Paul Paul is offline
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Official Common Names for Clarity, Continuity, and Stability

In the turbulent sea of scientific name change the constancy of common names can provide a stable reference point. For example the treatment of Winter Fat shows the value of the common name through the decades. Commonly known as Winter Fat for centuries, the scientific name has gone from Diotis to Eurotia to Ceratoides to Krascheninnikovia. All the floras, the present Jepson, the original Jepson, Munz, and Hitchcock and Cronquist (Pacific NW), kept things clear by including the common name, Winter Fat, prominently in their treatments. This clarity could be extended to all plants by establishing an official system of common names.

In contrast the treatment of Bluebunch Wheatgrass in the new Jepson Manual would leave most people lost at sea. The entry for the newly renamed Pseudoroegneria spicata did not include the common name in its description even though Bluebunch Wheatgrass was extremely well established and unambiguous. Most readers would have to do outside research to figure out what plant was being described. Those familiar with the previous scientific name, Agropyron spicatum would need to read the fine print to discover this identity.

Last edited by Paul; 06-18-2010 at 12:40 PM.
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