Understanding Scientific Nomenclature
I thought we would start this thread to explore a subject that causes much confusion ... please add what you can !
"Is classification a part of nomenclature or is it a separate thing? For example, does an official name include the classification, or do we have official names, but varying methods of classification?
Why are plants renamed and reclassified? I get the feeling that the current trend is to try to classify plants according to how they evolved, but still try to make it fit into the division, class, family system. Sort of like trying to pound a round peg into a square hole, but the square hole with the best fit. Or am I way off-base? "
- quoted from Shelly ...( Thanks for the question Shelley )
The three areas of plant taxonamy are Classification .. Nomenclature and Identification. The three are seperate areas but work together to allow us catolog all plant life on earth so we can identify unknown plants in a systematic manner and better understand their evolution and perhaps our own ... ofcourse botany is a work in progress .. many plants are still to be discovered and many extinct making there evolution difficult to understand since some of the pieces to the puzzle are missing. Many areas of botanical science would not be possible without first having a understanding of plant taxonamy.
Classification is the organization of groups called "taxa" .. a taxa may contain many plants or only one plant ... in botany the groups or taxa are Kingdom .. Division .. Class .. Order .. Family ... Genus ... Species .. even subspecies ect.. The taxa are organized to illustarte what we believe and accept as the current evolution of plants on earth ... plants in the same taxa are more closely related so members of Solanaceae a plant family are more closely related to each other then they are to the taxa in Asteraceae .... make sense ??
Nomenclature is the method or rules used to give each taxa in your system of classification a name ... when a new plant taxa is discovered or developed there are procedures to go about naming that new taxa ... these rules are determined by the "International Congress of Botany" which meets every four years .. and publishes the "International Rules of Nomenclature" each time they meet.
As time goes on scientific information changes ... new discoveries ... additional research .. changes the picture of how plants evolved on the earth ... when different ideas become accepted in the botanical community small changes are made in our classification system to reflect what we have learned ... for example : a species may be moved to a different genus or a species may be divided into two species ( splitting ) or six species may become 1 species ( clumping ) ... another may be a large genus where half the species are placed in a new or pre existing genus. Major changes at the family .. order .. class .. Division level do not happen as often and would most likely face rsistance in the botanical community ... if several major changes occurred or if some very big insight was developed a completely different classification system could be put into place by the botanical community. This does not happen very often. The system I used in college was developed by Charles Edwin Bessey ( 1845 - 1915 ) ... and I believe this is the system we see for the most part today in publications ... I'm not really sure ?? ... remember if you have several million plants arranged in a herbarium it is quite a chore to reorganize them to comply with a new system ??
Identification is matching your unknown plant to a group of known plants. Once a match is found the now known plant is given a name ( nomenclature ) and placed in your classification system. Each name is associated with the "authorities" of that plant ... for example : Portulaca pilosa L. ... L. is the abbreviation for Carlos Linnaeus ( 1707 - 1778 ) who first described the plant over two hundred years ago ... if a botanist like yourself feels the plant belongs to a different genus you could make your case to the botanical community ... if the change was accepted your name as well would appear with Linnaeus and this would form the "nomenclatural history" of the plant ... for some groups of plants this could be rather invloved and complicated but the nomenclatural history documents how this plant was named and classified from the time it was first discovered.
Good Day ...