A couple of weeks ago I innocently put the up-dated name of Jacobaea maritima In my post about the slope on Thursday. Kris of Late to the Garden Party commented that she hadn’t realised that the name had been changed and that it was becoming more and more difficult to keep up with all the name changes that are occurring and that she was considering returning to using common names so that everyone would know which plant was being described. I hadn’t known the name had changed either but has looked it up to check the spelling, it was then I saw that its name has changed completely.
That was how I captioned the image but no, I was wrong it should now be Jacobaea maritima.
Of course we can’t return to common names where even within a few miles the identical plant can be known by a different name, not to mention all the many different names used in all the countries of the world.
How did the system we have now begin? Carolus Linnaeus, known as the father of taxonomy, devised the system of classifying and naming every organism. He developed a hierarchical system of classification of nature. Today, this system includes eight taxa: domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. What we use as the Latin name are the last two – the genus and the species; garden plants which are hybrids have the addition name added with capital letters. E.G. Choisya ternata ‘Aztec Pearl’ Where Choisya is the genus, ternata the species and the hybrid name is ‘Aztec Pearl’. Checking on this, even this has changed – have a look for yourself at just how complicated it is becoming to write about plants. Look up a plant you are familiar with and check its name – has it changed?
However it seems to me that Linnaeus’ aim was to have a definitive name for every organism which was decided upon after examining every species and classifying it precisely. The two word Latin name would mean that everyone everywhere would know precisely what plant was being referred to. For many years the names remained the same and if you were interested in plants you learned the Latin name and even if some were difficult to pronounce or spell it was worthwhile making the effort so that you could always be sure that you could communicate clearly. With all the changes that have been caused, in the first place, by better methods of examining the plants and, more recently, by the use of genetic profiling it is becoming almost impossible for the non-expert to keep up with these changes.
I wonder if we haven’t reached a point where every plant should be re-examined and the system revised completely at which point the use of Latin as the basis for the names might also be reconsidered.
I know others have strong feelings about this subject and that Louise (Welly Woman) and Chloris at The Blooming Garden will also be writing posts about this subject this week. Do read their posts and let us all know what you think.
Should we stick to the names we have always known and add a third word to the name if it needs to be changed? Should the system be revised completely? Do you mind when the names change or doesn’t it worry you. Changing names on digital documents is relatively easy but what about all the books out there? What do you think?