Re: Botanical names (Sorry Long)

John Laroche (
Mon, 30 Jan 1995 15:05:40 -0800

You wrote:

>I've just read Barry's piece on correct plant names, and it is very
>at least to me. However, it leaves open one question that I
>think about: What's the difference between 'var,' 'ssp,' and 'f'? Is

I am involved with a lot of different plant groups and I have hung out
with a lot of plant taxonimists. You would get two different answers
from the two main classes of taxonomists.
The Lumper: He instantly discards any thing like subspecies, variety or
forma. He subscribes to the broad species concept.
The Splitter: He loves to publish and see his (her) name in Index
Kewensis. According to him, a subspecies different enough from the main
species to deserve recognition, but not enough to merit a new species.
This new subspecies will generally be based upon GEOGRAPHIC SEPERATION
from the main species. The variety ranks below subspecies and is
generally applied to size 'Maxima' or color 'Rubra'. (P.S. As a lumper,
this is as stupid as calling a Negro Human: Homo sapien var. Nigrum or a
genetic dwarf Homo sapien 'minima' Genetic varieation in color, size or
even minor physical traits does not make for a new species) 'Forma' is
along the same lines, and was in vogue many years ago.

Cultivar has been previously explained, what most other plant groups
do(especially the Bromeliad people), is refer to things like "maxima" as
cultivars even though by definition they must originate in the wild.
Some groups in particular the Heliconias will say Large form or Red
Form. I think this is the most resonable.

BTW...God never made a species or a subspecies. Man decides what is or
isn't a species and a published species isn't a given it's only one
persons opinion, open to debate.