JARS v51n2 - More on Naming

More on Naming
Donald Voss
Vienna, Virginia

The Winter 1997 Journal note by Mr. Keith Adams ("To Name or Not to Name") interests me greatly. The message is one that I have tried to spread - but it is often not appreciated! I am puzzled, however, by the statement: '"No way,'" says George [Argent]. 'We only name plants for people when they are dead'."
The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature 1994 (Tokyo Code) states in Art. 23.2: "The epithet in the name of a species may be taken from any source whatever, and may even be composed arbitrarily..." From my contacts with botanists at the U.S. National Arboretum (I volunteer as an assistant in the herbarium) and from observing names in botanical journals, I believe it is safe to say that there is a lively trade in personal-name specific epithets on newly minted species in many genera. One possible scenario is that Argent and Chamberlain do not approve the practice and would not, themselves, create a binomial including such an epithet. That would be their right; but it would not be binding on other botanists, who would remain free (at their peril) to name, lump, or split taxa in genus Rhododendron as they might see fit.
An interesting insight on this matter is provided in the December 1996 issue [Vol. 3(4) of The New Plantsman . The article, by Argent and Chamberlain [sic!], is titled " Rhododendron rushforthii : a new species from Vietnam." The last sentence of the first paragraph is as follows: "This new species is named after Keith Rushforth who collected it as a group of seedlings on an expedition to Vietnam in 1992, and who has since successfully grown it to maturity."
Lack of the word "late" preceding Mr. Rushforth's name, together with the verb tense used, suggest that - despite the new specific epithet - he still lives.
As Punch had it: "You pays your money and you takes your choice."