International Botanical Congress 18 Melbourne #IBC18

Australian Acacia

This Acacia or wattle from Albany, Western Australia, can keep its gen­eric name!

This week, a good pro­por­tion of the world’s bot­an­ists will be meet­ing in Australia for the 6-yearly International Botanical Congress. Actually, the hard work star­ted a week ago — with the long, schol­arly and dry ses­sions mak­ing far-reaching decisions about plant and fungal nomen­clature. Of course, it is pretty import­ant to know what plant one is see­ing or work­ing with, and bad news if two people work on the same thing under dif­fer­ent names. We also need to know how things are related, and while a string of GGCGAATGTCGATT in the DNA may answer the ques­tion, it is much bet­ter to have a hier­archy of spe­cies, gen­era, fam­il­ies and on upwards. So the inter­na­tional con­gress makes decisions about major issues. We will all vote on ThursSaturday for their rat­i­fic­a­tion — the Nomenclature ses­sions will have done the rig­or­ous pre­par­a­tion so expect everything to pass! But votes by hands or on cards are reg­u­lar in the Nomenclature dis­cus­sions. Preserved spe­ci­mens have been recog­nized as the type spe­ci­mens — the ref­er­ence for all organ­isms that are given that name — for all plants and fungi up to now, but a vote is being held on whether fungal cul­tures should be admiss­ible as the type.

Social media has had an inter­est­ing impact on these nomen­clature ses­sions: wak­ing up each morn­ing, I have been able to read my #IBC18 Twitter feed!/search/%23ibc18. Thus I have been able to find what is hap­pen­ing the debates and dis­cus­sions, and feel part of these pro­ceed­ings (and vicari­ously join the din­ner!), even if I am now writ­ing this in the plane, on my way to join the con­fer­ence for the sci­entific ses­sions start­ing on Sunday.

Perhaps the most import­ant decision from a pub­lic­a­tion point of view is that elec­tronic pub­lic­a­tion of plant names will soon become valid. While Annals of Botany only occa­sion­ally pub­lishes new names (usu­ally in the con­text of other research) and taxo­nomic revi­sions, we have needed to be care­ful not to pub­lish these papers on-line before the print ver­sion appears. Now, the on-line ver­sion of the paper can be uploaded as soon as the author’s proof approval has been pro­cessed, as with all other papers. Nature has car­ried a use­ful sum­mary of the new rul­ings - http://​www​.nature​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​2​0​1​1​/​1​1​0​7​2​0​/​f​u​l​l​/​n​e​w​s​.​2​0​1​1​.​4​2​8​.​h​tml

Another import­ant decision is to allow English lan­guage descrip­tions of new spe­cies, repla­cing the Latin which has been required up to now.

Hypericum geminiflorum - the original description

But Latin for plant names has gone the way of the Romans: English descrip­tions of new spe­cies become allow­able. This is part of Hemsley’s ori­ginal descrip­tion of Hypericum gem­ini­florum, pub­lished in Annals of Botany http://​www​.tropi​cos​.org/​N​a​m​e​/​7​8​0​1​6​9​0​?​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​i​d=8

There are also a num­ber of nomen­clat­ural changes — or agreed lack of changes — com­ing through too. With the con­fer­ence being held in Australia, many will be happy that the genus Acacia, in the Leguminosae, will con­tinue to include the Australian wattles that are well known in cul­tiv­a­tion. I’ll be inter­ested to find out, though, what will hap­pen to the Fabaceae /Leguminosae fam­ily name. Leguminosae has a long-standing his­tory and is well under­stood to cover the 730 gen­era and 20,000 spe­cies in this big fam­ily, but there is no genus ‘Legumus’ on which it is based. Having myself only slowly adop­ted the name of Fabaceae (although Leguminosae remained an accept­able altern­at­ive), I don’t know what will hap­pen to Fabaceae now that the type genus of Faba has been sub­sumed under Vicia!

I’ll be tweet­ing and add some more blogs from #IBC #IBC18 over the next few days — the tech­no­logy is work­ing in the con­fer­ence centre — although my hotel charges A$16.50 per day, only a bit less than the €22.50 that I couldn’t afford in Portugal last week (so my blog on 50 years of X chro­mo­some inac­tiv­a­tion was pos­ted sev­eral days later - http://​bit​.ly/​m​Z​1​wDC ).

24 July: minor edits and replaced the Lorum ipsum Latin hold­ing text with a real descrip­tion of a species.

Editor Pat Heslop-Harrison. ORCID 0000-0002-3105-2167

Pat Heslop-Harrison is Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology at the University of Leicester. He is also Chief Editor of Annals of Botany.

2 Responses

  1. IBC Melbourne @IBC11 on Twitter rightly points out:
    “Great blog entry, but the hard work star­ted MUCH more than a week ago. Think the Rapporteurs never sleep!“
    I expect the work star­ted the day that the Vienna IBC finished.