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Biology 475/574 Supplementary Notes on Nomenclature Reference


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Biology 475/574

Supplementary Notes on Nomenclature

Reference: International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

1. What is nomenclature?

2. Nomenclature is based on the Latin language.

3. The binomial system of nomenclature.

4. The six basic principles of botanical nomenclature are:

A. Botanical nomenclature is independent of zoological nomenclature, in the sense that the name of a plant must not be rejected merely because it is identical with the name of an animal.

B. The rules of nomenclature are retroactive except when expressly limited.

C. The application of names of taxa is determined by means of nomenclatural types.

D. Scientific names of plants are Latin or treated as Latin (“Latinized”).

E. Each taxon can bear only one correct name, the earliest that is in accordance with the Rules, except in specified cases (e.g., nomina conservanda, which is the conservation of one name over another).



  1. The naming of taxa is based on priority of publication.

5. Selected rules for special consideration.

Ranks of Taxa

Article 1. Taxonomic groups of any rank will, in this Code, be referred to as taxa (singular: taxon).

Article 2. Every individual plant is treated as belonging to a number of taxa of consecutively subordinate ranks, among which the rank of species is basic.

Names of Taxa (Definitions, Typification, Priority)

Article 6. Effective publication is in accordance with Arts. 29 31. Valid publication is publication in accordance with Arts. 32.45. A legitimate name or epithet is one that is in accordance with the rules. An illegitimate name or epithet is one that is contrary to the rules. The correct name of a taxon with a particular circumscription, position, and rank is the legitimate name which must be adopted for it under the rules (see Art. 11).

Article 7. The application of names of taxa of the rank of family or below is determined by means of nomenclatural types (types of names of taxa). A nomenclature type (typus) is that constituent element of a taxon to which the name of the taxon is permanently attached, whether as a correct name or as a synonym.

Article 11. Each family or taxon of lower rank with a particular circumscription, position, and rank can bear only one correct name, special exceptions being made for 8 families (with one additional under particular conditions) for which alternative names are permitted (see Art. 18) and for certain fungi and fossil plants (see Art. 59).

Article 13. Valid publication of names for plants of the different groups is treated as beginning at the following dates (for each group of work is mentioned which is treated as having been published on the date given for that group):

Recent plants

a. ANGIOSPERMS, GYMNOSPERMS AND FERNS, 1 May 1753 (Linnaeus, Species Plantarum ed. 1).

Article 14. In order to avoid disadvantageous charges in the nomenclature of genera, families, and intermediate taxa entailed by the strict application of the rules, and especially of the principle of priority in starting from the dates of Art. 13, this Code provides, in Appendices II and III, lists of names that are conserved (nomina conservanda) and must be retained as useful exceptions. Conservation aims at retention of those generic names which best serve stability of nomenclature. These names are preferably such as have come into general use in the fifty years following their publication, or which have been used in monographs and important floristic works up to the year 1890.

Nomenclature of Taxa According to Their Rank

Articles 16. The principles of priority and typification do not affect the form of names of taxa above the rank of family.

Note from Article 11. The principle of priority does not apply to names of taxa above the rank of family.

Articles 23. The name of a species is a binary combination consisting of the name of the genus followed by a single specific epithet. If an epithet consists of two or more words, these must either be united or hyphened.



  • The epithet of a species may be taken from any source whatever, and may even be composed arbitrarily.

Note 3. Those [names] published in works in which the Linnaean system of binary nomenclature for species was not consistently employed [are not to be regarded as specific epithets].

Effective and Valid Publication; Citation

Article 29. Publication is effected, under this Code, only by distribution of printed matter (through sale, exchange, or gift) to the general public or at least to botanical institutions with libraries accessible to botanists generally. It is not effected by communication of new names at a public meeting, by the placing of names in collections or gardens open to the public, or by the issue of microfilm made from manuscripts, typescripts or other unpublished material. Offers for sale of printed matter that does not exist does not constitute effective publication.



  • Publication on or after 1 Jan. 1953 of a new name in tradesmen’s catalogues or in non-scientific newspapers, even if accompanied by a Latin diagnosis, does not constitute effective publication.

Article 31. The distribution on or after 1 Jan 1953 of printed matter accompanying exsiccata does not constitute effective publication.

Article 32. In order to be validly published, a name of a taxon must (1) be effectively published, (2) have a form which complies with the provisions of Arts. 16 27 and (3) be accompanied by a description or a diagnosis of the taxon or by a reference (direct or indirect) to a previously and effectively published description or diagnosis of it.

Article 33. A combination is not validly published unless the author definitely indicates that the epithet or epithets concerned are to be used in a particular combination.


  • A new combination or a new name for a previously recognized taxon published on or after 1 Jan 1953 is not validly published unless its basionym (name bringing or epithet bringing synonym) or the replace synonym (when a new name or epithet is proposed) is clearly indicated with a full and direct reference given to its author and original publication with page or plate reference and date.

Article 35. A new name published on or after 1 Jan 1953 without a clear indication of the rank of the taxon concerned is not validly published. [E.g., sp. nov., comb. nov., stat. nov., nom. nov.]

Article 36. In order to be validly published, a new taxon of plants, the bacteria, algae, and all fossils excepted, published on or after 1 Jan 1935 must be accompanied by a Latin description or diagnosis or by a reference to a previously and effectively published Latin description or diagnosis of the taxon.

Article 49. When a genus or a taxon of lower rank is altered in rank but retains its name or epithet, the author who first published this as a legitimate name or epithet (the author of the basionym) must be cited in parentheses, followed by the name of the author who effected the alteration (the author of the combination). The same holds when a taxon of lower rank than genus is transferred to another taxon, with or without alteration of rank.

Retention, Choice, and Rejection of Names and Epithets

Article 55. When a species is transferred to another genus or placed under another generic name for the same genus without change or rank, the specific epithet, if legitimate, must be retained or, if it has not been retained, must be reinstated unless one of the following obstacles exists:



  1. The resulting binary name is a later homonym or a tautonym;

  2. An earlier legitimate specific epithet is available.

Article 60. When the rank of a genus or infrageneric taxon is changed, the correct name or epithet is the earliest legitimate one available in the new rank. In no case does a name or an epithet have priority outside its own rank.

Article 62. A legitimate name or epithet must not be rejected merely because it is inappropriate or disagreeable, or because another is preferable or better known, or because it has lost its original meaning.

Article 64. A name is illegitimate and must be rejected if it is a later homonym, that is, if it is spelled exactly like a name previously and validly published for a taxon of the same rank based on a different type. Even if the earlier homonym is illegitimate, or is generally treated as a synonym on taxonomic grounds, the later homonym must be rejected, unless it has been conserved.

The following is a summary of the rules you will need to keep in mind in order to solve these problems.



  1. Priority of publication begins with Linnaeus, Species Plantarum, 1753, for ferns and seed plants (Art. 13).

  2. For names to compete, they must have been published in a work in which binomial nomenclature was employed throughout. (Art. 23, Note 3).

  3. Before 1 January 1908, species names considered validly published if they were accompanied by an illustration with an analysis showing the essential features, even though no description or diagnosis was included. For recent plants, an illustration has never been required. (Art. 44).

  4. After 1 January 1935, names of all new species of plants except bacteria, algae, and fossils must be accompanied by a Latin diagnosis or be referred to as a previously and effectively published name. (Art. 36).

  5. Names read at meetings, names appearing in collections or gardens or on labels accompanying herbarium collections, or names appearing in tradesmen's catalogues or in non-scientific newspapers are not effectively published. (Art. 36).

  6. After 1 January 1953, anyone describing a new name must indicate the rank of the new taxon, and if it is in the rank of a family or below, the nomenclatural type must be indicated. (Arts. 35 and 37).

  7. Legitimate names or specific epithets must not be rejected because someone has used a name that is inappropriate or disagreeable, another is better known, or because it has lost its original meaning. For example, Lilium pensylvanicum is a native of northeast Asia. The epithet “pensylvanicum” is a misnomer, but since the name was validly and effectively published, it must stand and cannot be changed or have the name Lilium dauricum substituted for it. (Art. 62).

Biology 475/574 Nomenclature Exercise: Key

1. Of what rank is Pinus? Genus.

Of what rank is P. tenuifolia? Species.

What does “L.” mean? Linnaeus described it.

Explain what Species Plantarum 1001 (1753) means. Page 1001 of the Species Plantarum; published in 1753 (the starting date for botanical nomenclature is 1 May, 1753).

In the third line, why is “L.” enclosed in parentheses? The taxon was transferred from Pinus to Strobus. Linnaeus is the author of the basionym.

An author’s name enclosed in parentheses is called the parenthetical author.

Which is the correct name for this species of pine? Pinus strobus L.

Why did you select the name you did? It is the oldest legitimate name.

2. Give the correct name for this plant as a species of Armeria and as a species of Limonium.

Armeria maritima (Miller) Chandler comb. nov., and Limonium armeria (L.) Chandler comb. nov.

The combination Armeria armeria is called a tautonym.

3. The correct name of this species is: Armeria sennenii Lawrence

4. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Vernonia?



Vernonia gigantea (Walter) Trelease

5. Give the correct name as a species of Penstemon and Digitalis:



Penstemon hirsuta (L.) Willdenow, and Digitalis hirsuta (L.) Chandler comb. nov.

6. Give the correct name as a species of Bryocles and Hosta.



Bryocles caerulea (Andr.) Chandler comb. nov., and Hosta ventricosa (Salisb.) Stearn

7. Which name is correct? Euphorbia milii Des Moulins



8. Give the correct name as a species of Navarretia.

Navarretia heterodoxa (Greene) Greene

9. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Lens?

Lens culinaris Medicus

What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Pisum?



Pisum lens (L.) Chandler comb. nov.

10. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Nyssa?

Nyssa sylvatica Marshall

11. What is the correct name of this taxon as a subspecies of Luzula plumosa Wall.?

Luzula plumosa Wall. subsp. rufescens (Fischer ex Meyer) Chandler comb. et stat. nov.

Is this the only solution to this problem? No.

If not, what is the answer?

Luzula plumosa Wall. subsp. macrocarpa (Buchenau) Chandler comb. et stat. nov. Or you could call it a completely different name, since no taxon has priority outside its own rank.

What is the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Luzula comosa E. Meyer?



Luzula comosa E. Meyer var. macrocarpa (Buchenau) Chandler comb. nov.

Is this the only solution to this problem? Yes.



12. Give the correct name for this taxon as a species of Androsace.

Androsace bungeana Schischk. & Bobr.

Give the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Androsace olgae Ovcz.



Androsace olgae Ovcz. var latifolia (Bunge) Chandler comb. nov.

13. Give the correct name for this taxon as a species of Abolboda.

Abolboda americana (Aublet) Lanjouw

14. Give this species of flowering plants a valid name.

Smartwoodia glauca (Wilson & Jones) Chandler gen. et comb. nov. [Could be any genus name, however]

15. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Spathiphyllum?

Spathiphyllum patinii (Hogg) N.E. Brown

16. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Anaphalis?

Anaphalis margaritacea (L.) Gray

What is the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Anaphalis sierrae Heller?



Anaphalis sierrae Heller var. subalpina (Gray) Chandler comb. nov.

17. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Artemisia?

Artemisia pycnocephala (Less.) DC.

Give the correct name of this taxon as a subspecies of Artemisia tridentata Nutt.



Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. pycnocephala (Less.) Chandler comb. nov.

18. Give the correct name of this taxon as a subspecies of Eriogonum insigne.

Eriogonum insigne Wats. subsp. exaltatum (Jones) Chandler comb. nov.

Give the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Eriogonum deflexum.



Eriogonum deflexum Torrey var. insigne (S. Wats.) Jones

19. What is the correct name of this taxon as a species of Argythamnia?

Argythamnia argentea Millspaugh

What is the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Argythamnia stahlii Urban?



Argythamnia stahlii Urban var. lanceolata (Mull. Arg.) Chandler comb. nov.

20. Give the correct name of this taxon as a species of Novernium.

Novernium giganteum Watkins

Give the correct name of this taxon as a variety of Cayuga seneca Steuben.



Cayuga seneca Steuben var. sericea (Wilson) Chandler comb. nov.

Suppose that the genus of Novernium belongs in a family of plants which has not yet been named, and is the only genus to be in this family. Its correct family name would be: Noverniaceae.



Why? Names of families must be based on a type genus.


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