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RE: taxonomy

One other note on scientific names- as far as the changing of the latin
binomial is concerned, the system Linnaeas devised (or at least, the
modified form of that we use today) works well enough to take care of old
scientific names no longer in use, and even regional spats where one group
of scientists uses one name and another group uses a different one (yes,
this does happen, though there is usually an unofficially recognized group
who mediates such things). The simple binomail we use (Genus species) is
actually a shorthand for the full scientific reference you would see in
scientific papers. The full  reference that would be at the top of any
scientific paper written about a given species, or used in a key to identify
the species, would include behind that binomial an abbreviation for the
person who described it, and often a date. So the full reference should read
Hemianthus micranthemoides NUTTALL, 1817. This says that the species
Hemianthus micranthemoides was described by (I assume James) Nuttall in
1817, and if you want to find out more you should look for his papers of
that year to find it.

At the point where the Micranthemum became the newly accepted generic name,
the written form of the name is a little more variable. Some just change the
name with the new author behind it, but usually (and I believe more
correctly) referrence to Nuttall would be put in parentheses with the
contraction for the new describer after that, or simply following (there
seems to be differences in how this is written between different
taxonomists...), as in Micranthemum micranthemoides NUTTALL/WETTSTEIN (or as
another site wrote it abreviated as Wetts.). This way you can usually follow
not only the original name but the new name in the scientific papers by
looking for the authors' papers. To describe a species, you have to publish
an argument, and to challenge an established name you have to publish again
arguing why (based on either the morphology and taxonomy of the plant, or on
the historical record of a pre-existing name for a particular plant. Some of
these historical ones can actually be quite fascinating, if you like that
kind of thing.) Generally speaking, the authors of both these scientific
papers and of the taxonomic keys include as many synonyms as they can find
for the species they describe, so you can usually find what you are looking
for even if they describe it under a different name. Or, if you were so
inclined, look for it in herbariums as specimens listed under old outdated
names. Scientific papers also tend to have long bibliographies referencing
all the material the author could find, and which should include any of the
original arguments used to describe and name the plants in the first place.
Sometimes the bibliography is longer than the paper itself.

Its a crazy, complicated system, and I certainly don't expect anyone on APD
to feel like they have to include the full reference with names and dates of
the authors behind the binomial. But for Scientific research, this works
well. Often the major synonyms are well enough known that many people here
on the APD know of them. For our use (and that of most gardeners, aquatic or
not) the simple binomial is more than enough information in most cases. The
rare cases where the scientific name seems more changeable seem to me to be
far fewer than the more common misconceptions brought on by some of the
rediculous common names- like "Corn plant" for Dracaena sps (which also go
by Sandriana, Sandy, Corn Palm, Dragon Palm, Dragon Tongue...) Have you ever
looked at the variability of plants commonly described as "roses"?

Brett Johnson
Green Man Gardens
bnbjohns at attbi_com