Arbor Age

Arbor Age Jan/Feb 2013

For more than 30 years, Arbor Age magazine has been covering new and innovative products, services, technology and research vital to tree care companies, municipal arborists and utility right-of-way maintenance companies

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Page 9 of 27

PLANT HEALTH CARE What's in a Name? By Brandon Gallagher Watson I f you went to any type of forestry, horticulture or arboriculture school, you were inevitably forced to memorize a slew of scientific plant names. Some may have stuck with you throughout the years, but the vast majority of them have likely long since drifted from your easily accessible memory. So, what was the point of that seemingly sadistic exercise? Are scientific names useful to the practicing arborist, or are they simply a way to sound smart about trees to your friends? Let's first get in the way-back machine to the mid-1700s. It was the Golden Age of European exploration and colonization, and travelers to all corners of the globe were bringing back flora and fauna specimens by the heap. Naturalists interested in trying to make sense of all the similarities and differences of these samples were stuck with a quandary of classification.Taxonomy, the science of classification, was inconsistent across scientists, schools, countries and continents.As there existed no common language by which to sort, each classifier used a different system with different names. As a result, it was very difficult to systematically catalog the world's living organisms. Many attempts to catalog all life have been made throughout history, with records going back before the Greeks, but none were compatible with each other, and the names were still all over the board. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus sought to establish a unified classification system 10 Arbor Age / January/February 2013 when he published "Systema Naturae"in 1758.Linnaeus's system used a hierarchical organization that started very broadly (such as "is it an animal, vegetable, or mineral?") and got down to the level of a distinct group of organisms that could successfully breed together, which he called a "species." The Linnaean classification system,from broadest to narrowest, goes Kingdom, Phyllum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy. Although Carl's original system has been heavily reorganized during the past century with the advent of techniques such as DNA sequencing, the core categories developed by Linnaeus exist today.Organisms at each level share characteristics of the all the other organisms at the higher level and differ from those at lower levels.All cats are felines, all felines are mammals, all mammals are animals, but not all animals are cats.The grouping of organisms along shared characteristics made it much easier to catalog the ever-growing list of new discoveries from around the world. Now,what to call all these new discoveries? As plants and animals were being brought back to Europe,some came with names local people called them, those who brought them back named some, and some simply had no common name.Two naturalists could be discussing the same plant but with two different names, so it was ripe for confusion and misinformation.The Linnaean system not only established standard classification, but also established a standard naming system as well.Much to the chagrin of modern natural science students, this system is based in Latin, but at least you can be comforted in knowing that every natural science student around the world has to learn the same system. Each level in the hierarchy has rules on the suffixes of the names which aid of the ease of use in the system.For example,by convention,every plant name at the Family level must end with the suffix "aceae" (pronounced ACE-E-AY) so their designation can easily be recognized. Each species is designated by its genus and species name, known as its Latin binomial. Properly written,genus is always capitalized,species is always lowercase and both are always italicized. For example, a red maple is a member of the Aceraceae (the maple family) and its binomial should read as Acer rubrum. Species names,much like people's first names,are widely used to describe a number of organisms so they should not appear without the genus or at least an abbreviation of the genus (i.e. A. rubrum for our red maple example). Following these standards provides a common language for scientists, naturalists and arborists to discuss a particular organism and ensure we are talking about the same one. The discoverer traditionally nominates new species names, and if several discoverers name an organism,the earliest published name is considered the "official" name.These names can be one of four types: descriptive, honorary, geographical or historical.A descriptive name will describe some characteristic, such as the red maple, where Acer is Latin for "sharp"

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