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Why Plant Names Change

Articles: Why Plant Names Change

California shrub deerweed (Acmispon glaber, formerly Lotus scoparius)

"Sure, you can name a tree, categorize it, safely identify it. But that tree exists, living the fullness of its quiet life, even if in its long history no man ever stood before it and labeled it. It knows itself already and mysteriously encounters the sun each day, nameless." Ivan M Granger

In California, many nurserymen, gardeners, and botanists are awaiting the impending publication of the second edition of The Jepson Manual—a comprehensive guide to the state’s nearly eight thousand native and naturalized plants. Scattered throughout the pages will be hundreds of species with scientific names that have changed since the 1993 first edition. Among the species with changed names is the native California shrub deerweed, which we had grown accustomed to calling Lotus scoparius, a name that rolls off the tongue like a drink order in an Italian café. Its new scientific name is Acmispon glaber, which, when said slowly, sounds as if something were caught in your throat. Is this new name the result of a deeper understanding of deerweed or just n...


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