SUPRISE! SUPRISE! Names Change When We Aren’t Looking!

Hello folks! I hope this post finds you all well! I wanted to share a couple interesting name changes with you. One I completely was shocked about but the other not so much. I have rewritten this post many times because I kept rambling on and on. I will try and make this short and to the point.

While I was making the last post, I attached links to the plant names I mentioned to their pages in the right column of the blog. I knew I needed to update most of the pages I had published from January through October 2017 because most of them still mentioned The Plant List as a reference. After that, I started using Plants of the World Online by Kew because The Plant List hadn’t been maintained since 2013.

I had also started adding links for further information at the bottom of the pages and attaching a link to the author’s names to their Wikipedia page. Some of the botanists who named and described plants have a very interesting history. Well, at least I found it interesting.

ANYWAY, as I was attaching the link to the plant’s pages, I realized I had to go back and make sure their pages were updated. Now, when I wrote originally their pages, I made sure their scientific names were correct and updated. In late October last year, when I found out about the new Plants of the World Online, I went back and made sure all the names were correct, MANY had changed just since January. GEEZ! I am starting to ramble AGAIN.

At the bottom of every page I have been attaching a link to Plants of the World Online about the genus and species… Most of the plant names on the last post were the same except for two…

First, when I went to add the link to the Coleus ‘Spiced Curry’. I went to Plants of the World Online, typed in Plectranthus scutellarioides (which was the last accepted scientific name for the Coleus), and POWO said that name was NOW a synonym of Coleus scutellarioides. I thought Plants of the World had lost their mind! That was the name applied to the species in 1830! OK, the Coleus we all know and love has had MANY scientific names. Carl Linnaeus described the species as Ocimum scutellarioides in the second edition of Species Plantarum in 1763. Since then, the name has changed several times using the original name as a basionym. Not to mention all the other names given to the species by other botanists that were later found out to be synonyms. POWO currently lists 57 synonyms and the 2013 version of The Plant List named 66. You could read all about the names on my Coleus scutellarioides page, but it isn’t updated yet. 🙂 The first scientific name I was familiar with for the Coleus was Solenostemon scutellarioides. Then, after I started using The Plant List, I found out the name had changed back to Plectranthus scutellarioides. Even the family name had changed.

When a species has had MANY names, it is no shock when it changes again. Botanists continue to be in disagreement and any plant databases author’s can choose whatever name they choose. That sounds strange, but it is true. I can even choose to use the name applied by Carl von Linnaeus in 1763 since it was the original name for my blog if I choose.

The shock really came when I went to update the Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’ page. I went to Plants of the World Online, attached the Link for the genus Colocasia but when I went to find the species name, it was not on the list. Now, that really confused me. How could Colocasia gigantea not be on the list? It was there before! Maybe I hadn’t checked before since the page was originally written earlier, before October 2017, and every other database and information online said Colocasia gigantea was the accepted name.

SO, I went back to the POWO home page and typed in Colocasia gigantea. LOW AND BEHOLD it said that name was a synonym of Leucocasia gigantea. I thought they had really lost their mind then! Apparently, a genetic test had been done, and they found out this species was more closely related to Alocasia than Colocasia. Since there were other “unique” characteristics, they returned it back to Leucocasia gigantea like it had been named in 1857. This species was first named Caladium giganteum in 1823. Now it is in a genus all by itself.

At least the, ummm, Leucocasia gigantea change has testing to back up the change. I have no idea why the Coleus name changed AGAIN and I have found no evidence of any testing. I sent an email to Rafael Goverts, the top the editor of Plants of the World Online and many other Kew resources, to quiz him a little. He accepted the name Plectranthus scutellarioides on the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families but it clearly says he did not accept the name Coleus scutellarioides in 1999 and 2003. Even the current biography on the Coleus scutellarioides page on POWO says he didn’t approve. So, how is it that they say it is now the accepted name? 

Well, Mr. Goverts is currently at the Chelsea Flower Show so I won’t hear back from him until he gets back. 

I will go ahead and update the Colocasia gigantea page because of the testing but I will wait for his reply before changing the Coleus pages AGAIN.

SOOOOO, until next time. Stay well, be positive, etc. and GET DIRTY!

4 comments on “SUPRISE! SUPRISE! Names Change When We Aren’t Looking!

  1. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I wish the names wouldn’t change- I have enough trouble with the original ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For sure! I can get used to the scientific names because that’s what I normally call them and all their photos, folders, documents, etc. are listed by the scientific names. That’s how I made myself learn them. Then when the name changes sometimes I can’t remember it for a while. So many scientific names go back and forth so if you remember them all you have it made. 🙂 Just start out with a few and gradually learn more. BUT pronouncing the scientific names is even more complicated. That is really tough! Thanks for the comment, Jane.

      Like

      • janesmudgeegarden says:

        I’ve learnt a lot since I’ve been blogging. Still a long way to go, though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jane, no matter how much we think we know, it’s only a drop in the ocean. Just be happy with what you do, enjoy what you do, be kind to nature, and help others along the way. I always found an open mind helps, too. Don’t complain about what you can’t change on your own that hasn’t or doesn’t involve others. Well, that almost eliminates complaining altogether.:)

          Liked by 1 person

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