I will take advantage of what Frank says on the suject in his book "Commonsense rock gardening" Johnathan Cape 1948. |
Why are the names all in Latin instead of having a nice easy common English name? "The reason it does not have a common English name is because it is not a common English plant." i.e. most plants we cultivate in our gardens are either from some far off land or are at least not commonly seen in the wild so have never aquired a genuinely common name. Also common names are often attached to more than one plant, "If you asked an English nursery to send you 'bluebells' they would naturally send you hyancinths, Scilla nonscripta, is our common English 'bluebell'. But if it happened to be a Scottish firm they would be more likeley to send you Campanulas because Campanula rotundiflora is the 'bluebell' of Scotland, the English call it 'harebell'." So also can one plant have more than one name, and not nescessarily an English one. Our 'dandylion' with it's reputation for causing wet nights if picked has a common name in French "pis-en-lit" I shan't translate.
Any new plant, when discovered and catalogued is given a name. Why should this be English? If the discoverer is french like Pere Delavay discoverer of M. betoniciflia, or Russian, German, Chinese... If you think Latin names are hard to say, imagine if they were all in Chinese?
So what are the rules? Who names them?
"Plants are no more born with names than are babies, nor does a name descend from high heaven to alight on some unsuspecting vegetable. In other words someone names them." "If you find a new plant, there is nothing in the world to prevent your giving it a name which, henceforth, will be recognised by all, including science. Of course you wouldn't be so gauche as to name it after yourself, it isn't done..." Which raises the question, why do so many plant species, and even some animal, bear the name wardii? I know that some were named after him by others but surely not all? Still moving on.
Every plant known to science should have a name (only one) consisting of two parts, the Genus which starts with a capital and the species which doesn't. Many plants also have a third name the variety. I would like to know why this is, by the way, so if any experts have strayed this far they might find time to clarify this. The Genus belongs to a family etc. much as it is in the animal kingdom. This is the plan however the best laid plans... many plant species have been collected twice or more and erroneously given names each time. Frank Kingdon-Ward was apparently not entirely free of guilt for this offence, and I for one see no shame in this given the bewildering variety of species known to science.
Disputes must be referred to the highest 'human' authority. Assuming the plant collector has brought back a specimen."had it not been collected it could not have been named, since a scientific name, to have any authority, must be attached to a specimen. But the specimen need be no more than a mummy...safely laid in a paper sarcophagus..." This 'type' specimen is the ultimate authority. If a 'new' species is found to be an existing type then the name is not valid. The first name given must stand. Even this rule isn't hard and fast, overhauls of the system have forced some species into different Genera, so changing the name.
Just as one plant may only have one 'real' name; one name may only have one plant. So if you are looking for a new plant and you want to name it wardii, forrestii, wilsonii or hookerii you may have more than one mountain to climb.