name lumping thread

Rachel Saunders
Thu, 07 Dec 2006 02:44:45 PST
Apparently according to John Manning's latest thinking, Albuca is probably
going to be revived again!  John lumped Galtonia, Albuca and various other
genera into Ornithogalum, but now he has changed his mind and will probably
be taking Albuca out again.  So look out for more name changes!!
Rachel Saunders
Tel +27 21 762 4245
Fax +27 21 797 6609
PO Box 53108, Kenilworth, 7745 South Africa

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Dylan Hannon" <>
To: <>
Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2006 5:58 AM
Subject: [pbs] name lumping thread

> Dear Sirs:
> I saw the recent(?) thread involving a discussion of recent name
> changes by Manning, Goldblatt, et al. The last response was by Harold
> Koopowitz. Please forgive my naivete, I am not sure how these threads
> work but I did subscribe a few moments ago to the pbs discussion
> email.
> Just a few thoughts on this subject. Poulson and Koopowitz both make
> excellent points, and so the following may be somewhat redundant.
> There are any number of roughly comparable 'conundrums' in plant
> taxonomy- whether to split or lump Apiaceae~Araliaceae,
> Campanulaceae~Lobeliaceae, and the classic example: whether the
> legumes should be arranged in 3 families or 3 subfamilies. Does it
> really matter? The purpose of a classification scheme is to allow
> communication with others regarding recognizable groupings of plants.
> Some of the original genera treated by Manning, Goldblatt and Fay are
> no doubt artificial concepts and that some of them should go away
> after a modern analysis is not surprising.
> The usefulness or practicality aspect has in recent years often been
> subverted, in my opinion, by the urge to act on the onslaught of
> molecular evidence of how things "really are". This urge derives from
> an almost obsessive focus on the phylogeny, or inferred evolutionary
> history, of various organisms. On closer inspection some of these
> taxonomic studies are "missing" various species or genera that could
> not be obtained and sampling is generally broad and shallow rather
> than narrow and in-depth. In addition, decisions about what type of
> DNA and type of analysis will be used also diminish objectiveness, as
> pointed out by Poulson. Having said this, much good has come from
> molecular detective work, e.g., the resolution of the previous mess we
> called the Scrophulariaceae or snapdragon family. New ways of looking
> at morphology and other attributes have also come from gene
> sequencing.
> It is virtually impossible for any classification to reflect perfectly
> the presumed phylogeny of a group, simply because the stream of data
> is unending, including discoveries of new organisms. Therefore
> compelling arguments need to be presented when familiar names and
> older useful concepts are rejected. A fact that escapes many
> frustrated growers, as pointed out by Harold, is that valid name
> changes are in fact optional.
> Some of the changes in the hyacinth family do seem jarring. I am not
> surprised that Albuca turns out to be very close to Ornithogalum. But
> if the same groups are still recognized at different ranks (i.e.
> subgenus or section Albuca in Ornithogalum, vs genus Albuca), then it
> is merely rearranging the furniture. The issue of ranking is one of
> the key difficulties in classifying plants and accounts for much of
> the subjective nature of various treatments. The point is that Albuca
> should probably be recognized at *some* level.
> It is a shame that we have "lost" some highly recognizable name
> concepts, such as Galaxia, Albuca, Whiteheadia. I have heard botanists
> chide growers for their attachment to names ("Are you collecting
> plants or are you collecting labels?") but in many cases I think we
> are attached to concepts, very often valid ones.
> Dylan Hannon
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