Ah, botany! After Latin, everyone’s favorite subject, right? So here’s a development involving both: the rules for naming new species of plants are being relaxed. Starting in 2012, that can be done in English, as well as the formerly-required Latin.
I would not know this if not for an Ottawa Citizen article by Tom Spears. And why the change? The article puts it this way:
The Botanical Congress says that so many people are discovering plants that it’s just not practical to keep Latinizing them. English, it says, is the modern global language.
Botanists name about 2,000 new species of plants, algae, and fungi every year. This is an important first step in preserving biodiversity: Someone has to know exactly what plants are in an ecosystem.
Here’s more detailing that change from a blog by the New York Flora Association.
Currently, in order to publish the name of a new taxon, e.g. a species, of non-fossil plants a description and/or a diagnosis in Latin must be provided. The Nomenclature Section modified this so that effective from 1 January 2012, the description and/or diagnosis may be in either English or Latin for valid publication of the name of all new taxa.
I muffed my best (only?) chance to name a new plant species. My maternal grandfather was a keen botanist. On one of his hiking visits, he found something he planned to submit as a new discovery. I learned later that taxonomists have long fallen into two basic two camps in terms of scientific classification: “lumpers” and “splitters”. Splitters lobby for more species, lumpers just the opposite. Grandfather was a splitter.
Grandfather kindly offered to let me pick out a name. But I was too young to appreciate the opportunity. I failed to think up anything worth using.
I like to hike. I love to garden. Plants make me very happy! But, with apologies to my learned grandfather, I find listing them (by Latin names, families and distinguishing characteristics) about as interesting as watching paint dry. Truth be told, that apple rolled far, far away from the tree.
Oddly, grandfather was just the opposite. He loved everything to do with botany and collecting, but couldn’t be bothered with gardening. It takes all types, I guess.
How about you? Would you rather find plants or grow them? If you stumbled upon something new, would you write it up in English, or keep it classy, with good old Latin?
Does this change count as progress and democracy? Or yet another surrender to intellectual laxity?