yroux(4B)May 20, 2006

What does the word "incarnata" mean. I know it comes from a latin word which means something like "make real". I want to know why exactly the botanist choose that word.

Example - Asclepias incarnata

yvan roux

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Flesh colored. It comes from the latin word incarnatus which means "to make flesh." Its English transliteration (incarnate) is used in several translations of the bible.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2006 at 8:52PM
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Thanks for answering. But I need more explanation concerning "flesh colored". Why botanist have choosen this word for asclepias that are white and pink? I understand the religious meaning.

yvan roux

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 11:21AM
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TonyfromOz(z10 NSW Aust)

You would need to go back 250 years and ask Linnaeus, as it was he who named this species.

When you think of it, the color of flesh is variable, from the very pale pink of veal to the red of beef. But the more religious meaning of incarnata (or the English incarnate) is 'made flesh', implying the living flesh, complete with skin.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2006 at 10:10PM
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Definitely botanists are strange when they name a plant. I read that asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) is exclusively an american plant.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 6:50PM
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thanks Tony. I meant skin, but evidently got distracted by the last thing I read :-)


    Bookmark   May 23, 2006 at 11:54PM
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TonyfromOz(z10 NSW Aust)


Under the rules of nomenclature, botanical names may not be rejected just because they are inappropriate. They are names, not descriptions! If a man has the surname Little, he does not usually change it just because he is 2 metres tall and weighs 120 kilograms.

Asclepias syriaca is another name published by Linnaeus in 1753, and as it is clearly typified we must continue to use it. You should realise that, on the information available to Linnaeus at that period, he may well have honestly believed it came from Syria. He did not have Google (and even if he did he would have got plenty of inaccurate information!).

Perhaps you do not appreciate that in earlier ages peoples' understanding of the world, not to mention their use of language, was often very different from ours.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 7:02AM
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flash14756(z6 Boise, Idaho USA)

One example is Tigridia. The flowers are spotted but the name means "tiger". It was named during the victorian era and at that time people were still confusing the spotted South American jaguar with the striped Indian tiger. The name was, indeed intended to denote a spotted flower. But I still dont understand why passiflora incarnata has that name, there is nothing flesh-colored about it.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 4:53PM
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Some more . . .

Scilla peruviana (from Spain; the specimens were delivered to Linnaeus on board the ship MS 'Peru', but that detail got muddled in the delivery)

Cupressus lusitanica (from Mexico; introduced to Portugal [Lusitania] in the 15th century, info which had become part-forgotten when Miller gave it its scientific name 300 years later in the late 18th century)

Simmondsia chinensis (from California, but Nuttall's handwriting was famously illegible, and the herbarium note 'Calif' was mis-read by Johann Link as 'China')


    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 4:19PM
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On why Passiflora incarnata got its name (and its English name 'passion flower') - look at the significance of the flower pattern to religious people who believed in the 'doctrine of signatures' (the idea that god put 'signs' into plants to point to him):

3 stigmas - 3 nails used on the cross (one each hand, one for both feet)
5 anthers - 5 wounds (2 hands, 2 feet, spear in chest)
corona - crown of thorns
10 petals (actually 5 sepals, 5 petals) - the 10 disciples, minus Peter and Judas
whip-like tendrils - the whips used

So it was considered to be very significant about Jesus' incarnation.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 4:26PM
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